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^ rl'ggLJED IIVH GE I 

^y. '6b 5 [ a%i MQ,n '^tfeel 

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^Sl (^'6j 482 - 0300 - Phone 

^S (?^6) 286 - 5989 - Fq, 






LIGHT 



I' 

-■| 
.* 
I 

I 

■I 



nr THE SAME AUTHOR 



UNDER FIRE 

The Story of a Squad, 

Trannlated frotu Le Feu 

BV 

K I T Z W A T li R W R A Y 

C/iti, Cr. 8fc,, 6s. ntt 

WE OTHERS 

Stories of Fate, Love 6c Pity 

Trandated from Nous Autrts 

BY 

IMiZ WATER WRAY 
Llth, Cr. 9t'0., 6s. net 



DENT o SONS. LIMITED 



H n N R I R A K H V S S K 



LIGHT 




TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH 
BV 

FITZWATER WRAY 



1919 

LONDON AND TORONTO 

J. M. DENT & SONS. LTD. 



CONTHNTS 



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17 


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F.vsNiNO AMP Dawn 




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Maiiie .... 






44 


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Day by Dav 






^4 


VI 


A Voice im tmi Evemimg 






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VII 


A Sl'MMARV 






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The hRAWLBN 






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The Stor!« 






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Ar THE Would s Evr» . 






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The RiiNi .... 






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XV 


Am Apparition 






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XVI. 


Db PRori mdi*. Ci amavi 






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MoNNiN'c. .... 






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GHf>ST>. .... 






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Thf. Ci LI .... 






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XXI 


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270 


XXII. 


Light .... 






278 


XXIII. 


Facf to Face 






295 



LIGHT 



<ii.M'||;k I 



from tht ir be- 



An- the days of tlu- week are alikr 
giiunnK t*> t'uif fiitj. 

At seven in the evening <me. hears the cI.Kk strike 
gentiv and th.n the in<itant tnmiilt of the bill I 
dose the d.sk. wi|H.' nu' jK>n. and put it down' I 
take my hat and nuitlkr, after a glan.e at the 
nmror a glance which sJh.ws me the regi.l.r oval 
of my face, my ijlossy hair and hne moustache (U 
IS otmou. that 1 am rather more than a workma 
1 put out the hght and descend In.m my httle cl e 
partitioned oliice. I cross the lx,iIer-house myself m 

et' if Tre^' * r ^'""^''"«' ^■'^''"•"^ P-1 S has 
crowd which mcreases in the corridors and rolls 
down the stairways like a cloud, some passing voices 
cry o me. ;' Good night. Monsieur Shnon ^ or in 
less famihanty, " (Jood night. Monsieur Pauhn '' I 
answer here and there, and allo-v myself to be borne 
awa> hy evervlxjdy else. 

Outside on't he threshold of the porch which opens 
on the naked plain and its pallid horizons, one^es 

h^^X^T'^v ^""^ !,"^?^'"' "^ ^'»''* '^^^'^••y- like a huge 
black background of the stage, and the tr'I extin- 
guished chimney, whose only crown now is the cloud 
of falling night. Confusedly the dark flood carries 



;i ! 



LIGHT 



l« 



me away. Along the wall which faces the porch, 
women are waiting, like a curtain of shadow, which 
yields gUmpses of their pale and expressionless faces. 
With nod or word we recognise each other from the 
mass. Couples are formed by the quick hooking of 
arms. All along the ghostly avenue one's eyes follow 
the toilers' scrambling flight. 

The avenue is a wan track cut across the open 
fields. Its course is marked afar by Hnes of puny 
trees, sooty as snuffed candles, by telegraph posts 
and their long spider-webs, by bushes, or by fences 
which arc hke the skeletons of bushes. There are 
a few houses. Up yonder, a strip of sky still shows 
palely yellow above the meagre suburb where creeps 
the muddy crowd detached from the factory. The 
west wind sets quivering their blue overalls, or black 
or khaki, excites the woolly tails that flutter from 
muflflered necks, scatters some evil odours, attacks 
the sightless faces so deep-drowned beneath the 
sky. 

There are taverns anon which catch the eye. 
Their doors are closed, but their windows and fan- 
lights shine hke gold. Between the taverns rise 
the fronts of some old houses, tenantless and hollow ; 
others, in ruins, cut into this gloomy valley of the 
homes of men with notches of sky. The iron-shod 
feet all around me on the hard road sound Uke the 
heavy rolling of drums, and then on the paved 
footpath like dragged chains. It is in vain that I 
walk with head bent — my own footsteps are lost in 
the rest, and I cannot hear them. 

We hurry, as we do every evening. At that spot 
in the inky landscape where a tall and twisted tree 
seems to writhe as if it had a soul, we begin sud- 
denly to descend, our feet plunging forward. Down 
below we see the Ughts of Viviers sparkle. These 
men whose day is worn out stride towards those 
earthly stars. One hope is Uke another in the even- 



MYSELF 3 

ing, as one weariness is like another ; we are all 
alike. I also, I go towards my light, like all the 
otners, as on every evening. 



When we have descended for a long time the 
gradient ends, the avenue flattens out like a river 
and widens as it pierces the town. Through the 
latticed boughs of the old plane trees— still naked 
on this last day of March— one glimpses the work- 
men s tenements upright in space, hazy and fantas- 
tic chess-boards, with squares of light dabbed on in 
places, or hke vertical cliffs in which our swarming 
IS absorbed. Scattering among the twilight colon- 
nade of the trees, these people engulf themselves in 
the heaped-up lodgings and rooms; they flow 
together m the cavity of doors, they plunge into the 
houses, and there they are vaguely turned into 
lights. 

I continue to walk, framed in several companions 
who are foremen and clerks, for I do not associate 
with the workmen. Then there are handshakes, 
and I go on alone. 

Some dimly seen wayfarers disappear ; the sounds 
of sliding locks and closing shutters are spaced 
apart ; the houses have shut themselves up the 
mght-bound town becomes a desert profound I 
can hear nothing now but my own footfall 

Vmers is divided into two parts— hke many 
towns, no doubt. First, the rich town, composed 
of the main street, where you find the Grand Cafe 
the elegant hotels, the sculptured houses, the church 
—and the castle on the hill-top. The other is the 
lower town, which I am now entering. It is a system 
of streets reached by an extension of that avenue 
which is flanked by the workmen's barracks and 
cLmbs to the level of the factory. Such is the way 
which it has been my custom to climb in the moni- 



n^ 



4 LIGHT 

ing and to descend when the Hght is done during 
the six years of my clerkship with Messrs. Gozlan 
^ Co. In this quarter I am still rooted. Some day 
I should like to live yonder. But between the two 
halves of the town there is a division, a sort of 
frontier, which has always been and will always 
be. 

In the Rue Verte I only meet a street lamp, and 
then a mouse-Uke little girl who emerges from the 
shadows and enters them again without seeing me, 
so intent is she on pressing to her heart, Uke a doll, 
the big loaf they have sent her to buy. Here is the 
Rue de I'Etape, my street. Through the semi- 
darkness, a luminous movement peoples the hair- 
dresser's shop and takes shape on the dull screen 
of his window. His transparent door, with its 
arched inscription, opens just as I pass ; and under 
the soap-dish, » whose jingle summons customers, 
Monsieur Justin Ppcard himself appears, along with 
a rich gust of scented light. He is seeing a customer 
out, and improving the occasion by the utterance 
of certain sentiments ; and I had time to see that 
the customer, convinced, nodded assent, and that 
Monsieur Pocard, the oracle, was caressing his 
white and ever-new beard with his luminous hand. 

I turn round the cracked walls of the former tin- 
plate works, now bowed and crumbling, whose 
windows are felted with grime or broken into black 
stars. A few steps farther, I think I saw the childish 
shadow of httle Antoinette, whose bad eyes they 
don't seem to be curing, but not being certain 
enough to go and find her, I turn into my court, as 
I do every evening. 

Every evening I find Monsieur Crillon at the door 

of his shop at the end of the court, where all day 

long he is fiercely bent upon trivial jobs, and he 

rises before me Hke a post. At sight of me the 

* The hanging sign of a French barber. — Tr. 



MYSELF 5 

kindly giant nods his big shaven face and the square 

rap on top, his huge nose and vast cars. He tans 

the leather apron that is hard as a plank Ih- 

sweeps nic aloiig to the side of the street, sets niv 

. back against the porch, and says to me in a low 

I voice but with heated conviction : 

J '!J^^^ P^trarque chap, he's really a bad lot " 

I He takes off his cap. and while the crescendo 

he add? "^ ^^*^^ ^^^"^ ^^^^^ *° ^^^^ *^^ "'Sht, 

," y^/ mended him his purse. It had become per- 
colated. I ve put him a patch on that cost me 
thirty centimes, and I've resewn the edge with braid 
«; n u*^^T^°^- They're expensive, them jobs.' 
Well, when I open my mouth to talk about that 
matter of his sewing-machine that I'm interested 
*eakd "^ ^^"'* "^^ ^"^^^^^' ^® becomes con- 

He recounts to me the mad claims of Trompson in 
the matter of his new soles, and the conduct of 
Monsieur Bdcret who. though old enough to know 
better, had taken advantage of his good faith by 
paying for the repair of his spout with a knife " that 
would cut anything it sees." He goes on to detail 
for my benefit all the important matters in his life. 
Inen he says : 

" I'm not rich. I'm not. but I'm consentious. If 

"^ ^^o*<Jer. it's cos my father and my grandfather 
were botchers before me. There's some that's for 
making a big stir in the world, there are. I don't 
hold with that idea. What I does, I does." 

Suddenly a sonorous tramp persists and repeats 
Itself in the roadway, and a shape of uncertain 
equihbnum emerges and advances towards us bv 
fits and starts a shape that cUngs to itself and is 
impelled by a force stronger than itself. It is Bris- 
bille the blacksmith, drunk as usual. 

Espying us, BrisbiUe utters exclamations. When 



rA 



6 LIGHT 

he has reached us he hesitates, and then, smitten 
by a sudden idea, he comes to a standstill, his boots 
clanking on the stones as if he were a cart. He 
measures the height of the kerb with his eye, but 
clenches his fists, swallows what he wanted to say 
and goes off reeling, with an odour of hatred and 
wine, and his face slashed with re I patches. 

" That anarchist I " said Crillon in disgust ; 
" loathsome notions, now, aren't they ? Ah, who'll 
rid us of him and his alcoholytcs ! " he adds as he 
offers me his hand. " Good night. I'm always 
saying to the Town Council, ' You must give 'em 
cUnk,' I says, ' that gang of Bolshevists, for the 
shghtest inf ractionment of the laws against drunken- 
ness.' Yes, indeed ! There's that Jean Latrouille 
in the Town Council, eh ? They talk about keeping 
order, but as soon as it's a question of a-doing of it, 
they seem hke a cold draught." 

The good fellow is angry. He raises his great fist 
and shakes it in space hke a medieval mace. Point- 
ing where Brisbille has just plunged floundering into 
the night, he says : 

" That's what SociaUsts are — the conquering 
people that can't stand up on their legs ! I may be 
a botcher in life, but I'm for peace and order. 
Good night, good night— is she well, Aunt Josephine? 
I'm for tranquillity and hberty and order. That's 
why I've always kept clear of their crowd. A bit 
since, I saw her trotting past, as vivicious as a young 
girl— but there, I talk and I talk ! " 

He enters his shop, but turns on his heel and calls 
me back, with a mysterious sign — " You know 
they've all arrived up yonder, at the castle ? " 

Respect has subdued his voice ; a vision is ab- 
sorbing him of the lords and ladies of the manor, 
and as he leaves me he bows instinctively. 

His shop is a narrow glass cage which is added 
to our house, Uke a family relation. Within I can 



I 



1 



MYSELF 7 

just make out the strong plebeian framework of 
Crillon himself, upright beside a serrated heap of 
ruins over which a candle is enthroned. The light 
which falls on his accumulated tools and on those 
hanging from the wall makes a decoration obscurely 
golden around the picture of this wise man, this 
soul all innocent of envious demands, turning again 
to his botching as his father and his grandfather 
botched. 

I have mounted the steps and pushed our door, 
the grey door whose only relief is the key. The 
door goes in grumbling, and makes way for me into 
the dark passage which was formerly paved, ♦^hough 
now the traffic of soles has kneaded it with earth 
and changed it into a footpath. My forehead strikes 
the lamp which is hooked on the wall ; it is out, 
oozing oil, and it stinks. One never sees ttiat lamp 
and always bangs it. 

And though I had hurried so — I do not know why 
—to get home, at this moment of arrival I slow down. 
Every evening I have the same small and dull dis- 
illusion. 

I go into the room which serves us as kitchen and 
dining-room, where my aunt is lying. This room is 
buried in almost complete darkness. 

" Good evening, Mame." 

A sigh and then a sob arise from the bed r'-^mmed 
against the pale celestial squares of the .w. 

Then I remember that there was a scene between 
my old aunt and me, after our early morning coffee. 
Thus it is two or three times a week. This time it 
was about a dirty window-pane, and on this particu- 
lar morning, exasperated by the continual gush of 
her reproaches, I flung an offensive word, and 
banged the door as I went off to work. So Mame 
has had to weep all the day. She has fostered and 
ruminated her spleen and sniffed up her tears, even 
while busy with household duties. Then, as the 



¥ J 



f 



8 



LIGHT 



I 



chl^rin ^ ^' ""^ sustaining and displaying he; 

visible potatoes ; there are potatoes scat ered c>ver 
tiemTonr'T^'^^^f • ^y ^''' ^^'^ ^^«'" ^nd send 

SLnt A '""^^ '^'P^/^* °' S^""«"ts that are 
Wing about. As soon as I am there, my aunt over- 
flows with noisy tears. ^ 

comer '^''"''^ ^"^ ^^^^ ^^'"' ^ '*' ^'''^" *" '"y ^'^^ 

Uk?T .^I'n" ^'^^ ^ '? ""^^^ °"* ^ P°»"t«d shape, 
Wee a mounted picture, silhouetted against the 
curtains which slightly blacken the windrow It is 
a. though tne quilt were hfted from underneath by 
a stick for my Aunt Josephine is leanness itself ^ 

lament r^^ '^''' ^'' "'^'^^ ^"^ ^^"^ to 

rirplJ/'y^^ "f ^^^""?!' "o-you're heartless-that 
areadful word you said to me-^you said ' You and 
your jawing I '-Ah. people don't know what I have 
to put up with-iU-natured-cart-hors^ T' ' 
in silence I hear the tear-streaming words that 

S'on^h """^.r ^" '^:. "^^'^ ^^"^ ^^°"^ that obscure 
blot on the pillow, which is her face 

•• ^^^^tand up. I sit down again. I risk saying 
Come, now, come ; that's aU done with " ^ 

done'wirf'."^'^^^"^*^^ Ah,itwillaeverbe 

With the sheet that night is begriminff she 
muzzles herself and hides he? face. Shf sHf s her 
head to left and to right violently, so as to wfpe 
her eyes and signify dissent at the same time ^ 
Never! A word like that you said to me breaks 
the heart for ever. But I must get up and get vou 
sometlung to eat. You must eat. iVougM you 
up when you were a little one "-her voice fapsi^es 



M Y S E L r 










'//. 



--'• I've given up all for yo.i, and you troat tne as 
jf 1 were an adventuress." 

I hear the sound of her skinny feet as she plants 
them successively on the floor like ♦wo boxes She 
IS seeking her things, scattered over the bed or 
s ipped to the floor ; she is swallowing sobs. Now 
she IS upright, shapeless in the shadow, but from 
time to time I see her remarkable leanness outlined, 
bhe shps on a camisole and a jacket-a spectral 
vision of garments which unfold themselves about 
fier handle-hke arms, and above the hollow frame- 
work of her shoulders. 

She talks to herself while she dresses, and gradu- 
ally all my life history, all my past comes forth from 
What the poor woman says— my only near relative 
on earth, as it were my mother and my servant 

She strikes a match. The lamp emerges from the 
dark and zigzags about the room Uke a pocket 
fairy. My aunt ^^ enclosed in the strong light Her 
eyes are level with her face ; she has heavy and 
spongy eyehds. and a big mouth which stirs with 
ruminated sorrow. Fresh tears increase the dimen- 

fh?L . .7^'' ^^^^ ^^^"^ 'P^^^^' and varnish 
the points of her cheeks. She comes and goes, with 
undimimshed spleen. Her wrinkles iofm heavy 
mouldings on her face, and the skin of her chin and 
neck is so folded that it looks intestinal, while the 
crude hght tinges it all with something hke blood 
vid.? ^^at the lamp is ahght. some items become 
VIS ble of the dismal super-chaos in which we are 
waUed up~the piece of bed-ticking fastened with 
two nails across the bottom of the window, because 
of draughts ; the marble-topped chest of drawers. 

v^Ih i ""T^T" '^°''f ' ^"^ *^^ door lock, stopped 
with a protruding plug of paper. 

wW l^""? ^s flanng. and as Mame does not know 
where to stand it an.ong the hUer. she puts it on 
the floor and crouches to regulate the wick. There 



zo 



LIGHT 



rises from the medley of the old lady, vividly varie- 
gated with vermilion and night, a jet of black smoke 
which returns in parachute form. Mame sighs, but 
she cannot check hor continual talk : 

" You, my lad, you who are so genteel when you 
like, and earn a hundred and eighty francs a month 
—you're genteel, but you're short of good manners 
—it's that chiefly I find fault wuh about. So you 
spat on the window-pane, I'm certain of it. May I 
drop dead if you didn't. And you're nearly twenty- 
four ! And to revenge yourself because I'd .' und 
out that you'd spat on the window, you told me to 
stop my jawing, for that's what you said to me. 
after all. Ah, vulgar fellow that you are I The 
factory gentlemen are too kind to you. Your poor 
father was their best workmen. You are more 
genteel than your poor father, more English ; and 
vou preferred to go into business rather than go on 
learning Latin, and everybody thought you quite 
right, but for hard work you're not much good— ah, 
la, la I Confess that you spat on the window— 

"For your poor mother," the ghost of Mame 
goes on, as she crosses the room with a wooden 
spoon in her hand. " one must say that she had 
good taste in dress. That's no harm, no, but cer- 
tainly they must have the wherewithal. She was 
always a child. I remember she was twenty-six 
when they carried her away. Ah, how she loved 
hats ! But she had handsome ways, for all that, 
when she said. ' Come along with us, Josephine I ' 
So I brought you up, I did, and sacrificed every- 
thmg " ^ 

Overcome by the emotion of the past, Mame's 

speech and action both cease. She chokes, and wags 

her head, and wipes her face with her sleeve. 

I nsk saying gently, " Yes, I know it weU." 

A sigh is my answer. She lights the fire. The 

coal sends out a cushion of smoke, which expands 



MYSELF n 

and rolls up the stove, falls back, and piles its 
musUn on the floor. Mame manipulates the stove 
with her feet in the cloudy Jeposit ; and the hazy 
white hair which escapes from her black cap is also 
hke snioke. 

Then she seeks her handkerchief, and pats her 
pockets to get the velvet coal-dust off her fingers. 
Now, w)th her back turned, she is moving casseroles 
about : ° 

"Monsieur Crillon's father." she says, "old 
Dominic, had come from County Cher to settle 
down here in '66 or '67. He's a sensible man, seeing 
hes a town councillor. (We must tell him ricely 
to take his buckets away from our door.) Monsieur 
Bondas IS very rich, and he speaks so veil, in spite 
of his bad neck. You must show yourself off to all 
these gentlemen. You're genteel, and you're 
already getting a hundred and eighty francs a 
month, and it's vexing that you haven't got some 
sign to show that you're on the commercial side, 
and not a workman, when you're going in and out 
of the factory." 
" That can be seen easily enough." 
"I'd rather you had a badge." 
Breathing damply and forcefully, she sniffs 
harder and quicker, and looks here and there for 
her handkerchief ; she prowls with the lamp. As 
my eyes follow her, the room awakens more and 
rnore. My groping gaze discovers the tiled floor, 
the conference of chairs backed side by sido against 
the wall, the motionless pallor of the window in the 
background above the low and swollen bed. which is 
uke a heap of earth and plaster ; the clothes lying 
on the floor like mole-hills ; the protruding edges 
of tables and shelves, pots, bottles, kettles, and 
hanging clouts ; and that lock with the cotton- 
wool m Its far. 

" I Uke orderUness so much," says Mame as she 



li 



r< 



xa LIGHT 

tacks and wonn» htr way through this nccumiiln^ 
tion of things, all covered with a downy layer of 
dust hkf tbe cornorn of pastil pic turen 

According to habit, 1 stretch out n»v K*gH and put 
my feet on the >toi>l, which long u.se has polished 
and glorified till it liM»ks new. My face turn thi« 
way and that towai Js the lean phantom of my 
aunt, and I lull myself with the sounds of her stirring 
and her endless murmur. 

And now, suddenly, she has come near to me. 
She is wearing her jacket of grey and white stri|)cs, 
which hangs from her acute shouluers ; she puts 
her arm round my neck, and trembles as she says : 

" You can mount high, you can, with the gifts 
that you have. Some day. perhaps, you will go 
and tell men cvery.vhere the truth of things. That 
//fls happened. There have been men who were in 
the right above everybody. Why shouldn't you be 
one of them, my lad, >'om— one of those great 
apostles I " 

And with her head gently nodding aud her face 
still tear-si Jned, she looks afar, and sees the streets 
attentive to my eloquence ! 



Hardly has this strange imagining in the bosom 
of our kitchen passed away, when Mame adds, with 
her eyes in mine : 

" My lad, mind you never look higher than your- 
self. You are already something of a home-bird ; 
you have already serious and elderly habits. That's 
good. Never try to be different from others." 

" No danger of that, Mame." 

No, there is no danger of that. I should like to 
remain as I am. Something holds me to the sur- 
roundings of my infancy and childhood, and I 
should like them to be eternal. No doubt I hope 
for much from life T hope. I have hopes, as every- 



MYSELF ,j 

one hiH I do not even know ail that I hotHj for 
but I should not Ukc uh, great change*. In my 
heart I should not Ukc anything which changed the 
position of the stove, of the tap. of the chestnut 
wardrobe, nor the form of n»y evening rest, which 
faithfully returnu. 



ft 



The fire alight, my aunt warms up the sitew, 
stirring it with the W(K)den spoon Sometimes there 
spurts from the stove a mournful llame. which seemn 
to illumine her with tatters of light. 

I get up to look at the stew. The thick brown 
gravy is purring. I can sec pale bits of potato, and 
It IS uncertainly si>ottcd with the mucosity of onions 
Mame pours 't into a big white plate. 

" That's for you." she says ; " now what shall / 
have ? 

We settle ourselves each side of tlie little swarthy 
table. Mame is fumbhng in her pocket. Now her 
lean i.and, lumpy and dark, unnwts itself. She pro- 
duces a bit of cheese, scrapes it with a knife which 
she holds by tlu' blade, and swallows it slowly. By 
the rays of the lamp which stands beside us, I see 
that her face is not dry. A drop of water has 
hngered on the cheek that each mouthful protrudes 
and ghtters there. Her great mouth works in all 
directions, and sometimes swallows the remains of 
tears. 

So there we are, in front of our plates, of the salt 
which is placed on a bit of paper, of my share of 
jam which is put into a mustard-pot. There we are 
narrowly close, our foreheads and hands brought 
together by the light, and for the rest but poorly 
clothed by the !mgc gloom. Sitting in this jaded 
arm-chair, my hands on this ill-balanced table— 
which if you lean on one side of it begins at once 
to limp- I feel that I am deeply ro^^ 'lere I 



14 



\. I ti H T 



am. ii) tiiiit old room, (li«ordcred an an abandoned 
gardrn, thin worn-out ro«»ni, where the du»t touches 
you swiftly. 

Alter wc have eaten, our remark* grow rarer. 
Tlien Mame U'lfinn again to nuuuble ; tmce again 
nhc yields to emotion under the har%h flame of the 
lamp, :uul «»nce again her eyes grow dim in her com- 
plu'utt d Japanese mask, that is crowned with ct»tton- 
W(M»1. and sotmthing dmil , shining flows from them. 

The tears of the sensitive old soul plash on that 
lip so voluminous thut it siems a sort of heart. 
She leans towanls mc — she comes so near, o near, 
that I feel sure she is touching mc. 

I have only her in the world to love mc really. 
In spite of her humours and her lamentations I 
know well that she is always in the right. 



I 



I yawn, while she takes away the dirty plates 
and proceeds to hide them In a dark corner. She 
fills the big bowl from the pitcher, and then carries 
it along to the stove for the crockery. 

Antonia has given me an appointment for eight 
o'clock, near the kiosk. It is ten past eight. I go 
out. The passage, the court— by night all these 
famiaar things surround me even wliile they hide 
them -elves. A vague light still hovers in the sky. 
Crillon's prismatic shop gleams like a garnet in the 
bosom of the night behind the riotous disorder of 
his buckets. There I can see Crillon — he never 
seems to stop— filing something, examining his work 
close to a candle which fli ttcrs like a butterfly en- 
snared, and then reaching for the glue-pot which 
steams on a lit*le stove. One can just see his face, 
the engrossed and heedless face of the artificer of 
the good old days, the black plates ( i his ill-shaven 
cheeks, and protruding from his cap a vizor of stiff 
hair. He coughs, and the window-panes vibrate. 



* 
- 3 



K 



MYSELF 15 

In the Mrire. *lia<low nml nilrnre. In the diitanre 
are venturing shapt"*, |x«>pU. rnnrgjng or cntrring. 
and sonic hght « hoing sound*. AlnjoHf at omc. on 
tht' corner, I *cc Monsu ur Jo»»ph Bom^a* vanishing. 
nUH i\* a ramrml. I reci»gni'Md the thick white 
kerchief which con*ohdiit»s the boil* on hi* neck. 
As I pm* tlie hairdreHHcr's d<H>f it ofxn*, just as it 
chd a httle while ag«», and hiit agreeable voice says. 
" That's all thcit- is to it, in business." " Mmy- 
lutely." replies a man who is leaving— in the oven 
of the street one can only sec his littleness. He 
must be a consiflerable personage all the simc. 
Monsieur Pocard is always applying himstif to 
business and thinking of great schemes. A httle 
farther, in the depths of a cavity stoppered by an 
irt>a-griHed window, I divine the pre<sence of old 
Eudo, the bird of ill omen, the strange old man 
who coughs and has a bad eye and whines con- 
tinually. Even indoors he must wear his mournful 
cloak and the lamp-shade of his hood. People call 
him a spy. and not without reason. 

Here is the kiosk. It is waiting quite lone with 
its point in the darkness. Antonia has not bed 
for she would have waited for mo. I am impatient 
first, and then relieved. A good riddance. 

No doubt Antonia is still tempting when she is 
present. There is a reddish fever in her eyes, and 
her slenderness sets \ ou on (ire. But I am hardly 
m harmony with the Italian. She is particularly 
engrossed in her private affairs, with which I am 
not concerned. Big Victorine, always ready, is 
worth a hundred of her ; or Madame Lacaille, the 
pensively vicious, though I am equally satiated of 
her, too. Truth to tell, I phmge unreflectingly into 
a heap of amorous adventures which I shortly find 
vulgar. But I can never resist the magic of a firit 
temptation. 

1 shall not wait. I go away. I skirt the ignoble 



i6 



LIGHT 



' 1 



Bnsbilles forge. It is the last house in that 
chain of low hills which is the street. Out of the 
deep dark the smithy window flames with vivid 
orange behind its black tracery. In the middle of 
that square-ruled page of light I see transparently 
outhned the smith's eccentric silhouette, now black 
and sharp, now softly huge. Spectrally, through 
the glare, and m blundering frenzy he strives and 
struggles, and fumbles horribly on the anvil. Sway- 
ing, he seems to rush to right and to left, Hke a 
passenger on a hell-bound ferry. The more drunk 
hfsfire '""'"'' ^"""""'^y ^^ ^^"^ "P^" his iron and 

I return home. Just as I am about to enter, a 
timid voice calls mc— " Simon ! " 

It is Antonia. So much the worse for her I 
hurry in, followed by the weak appeal 

I go up to my room. It is bare and always cold • 
always I must shiver some minutes before I shake 
It back to hfe. As I close the shutters, I see the 
street again ; the massive slanting blackness of the 
roofs and their population of chimneys clear-cut 
against the minor blackness of space ; some still 
waking, milk-white windows; and. at the end 
A^ J^'^l^.^ ^""^ ^^°°"^y background, the blood- 
F.1?. . n"^T ^PP^"tion of the mad blacksmith, 
i'arther still, I can make out in the cavity the cross 

\ur ul^^P^^', """^ ^^^^"' ^^""y high and blazing 
with hght on the hill-top, the castle, a rich crown 
of masonry In all directions the eye loses itself 
among the black ruins which conceal their hosts of 
men and of women-all so unknown and so hke 



OURSELVES 



17 



CHAPTER II 



I 



OURSELVES 

It is Sunday. Through my open window a livine 
ray o Apnl has made its way into my room ItTaf 
transformed the faded flowers of the wall-paper and 
restored to newness the Turkey-red it urwhich 
covers my dressing-table. 

I dress carefully, dallying to look at myself in the 

soap I try to make out whether my eves are httl*. 
or b,g. They are the average, no^doubt but ? 
reaUy seems to me that they have a tender brighj! 

Then I look outside. It would seem that the 

valley, is awakmg later than its inhabitants 

in ihTJ *"!" '^^ ^''''^ "P ^^^^' spreading abroad 
m the streets, smce it is Sunday. One does not 
recognise them all at once, so changed are they bv 
their unusual clothes-women, ornate u^h cobur 

The weak sunshine is dressing the red roofs and 
the blue roofs and the sidewalks and [he tTnv little 
nnTr.'"t "" ^'''''^ ^^^^ther like p bbles ^e e 
pohshed shoes are shining and squeaking in that 
n ^f ' ^t the corner, a house like a round kn en 
of shadow gloomy old Eudo is encrusted I forms 
A Z\''^l ^^?' ^' ^^^°"g^^ traced on an o d etcll? 
il?H r?''^''' ^^"^^"^^ P^^t's house badges foth" 

aweuings one takes no notice of the others, with 
c 



i8 



LIGHT 



their grey walls and shining curtains, although it is 
of these that the town is made. 

Half-way up the hill which rises from the river 
bank, and opposite the factory's plateau, appears 
the white geometry of the castle, and around its 
pallors a tapestry of reddish foliage, and parks. 
Farther away, pastures and growing crops which are 
part of the demesne ; farther still, among the stripes 
and squares of brown earth or verdant, the ceme- 
tery, where every year so many stones spring up. 



We have to call at Brisbillc's, my aunt and I, 
before church. We are forced to tolerate him thus, 
so as to get our twisted key put right. I wait for 
Mame in the court, sitting on a tub by the shop, 
which is lifeless to-day, and full of the scattered 
leavings of toil. Mame is never ready in time. She 
has twice appeared on the threshold in her fine 
black dress and velvet cape ; then, having for- 
gotten something, she has gone back very quickly, 
like a mole. Finally, she must needs go up to my 
room to cast a last glance over it. 

At last we are off, side by side. She takes my arm 
proudly. From time to time she looks at me, and 
I at her, and her smile is an affectionate grimace 
amid the sunshine. 

When we have gone a little way, my aunt stops. 
" You go oa," she says, " I'll catch you up." 

She has gone up to Apolline, the street-sweeper. 
The good woman, as broad as she is long, was 
gaping on the edge of the causeway, her two parallel 
arms feebly rowing in the air, an exile in the Sabbath 
idleness, and awkwardly conscious of her absent 
broom. 

Mame brings her along, and looking back as I 
walk, I hear her talking of me hastily, as one who 
confides a choking secret, while Apolline follows, 



i 



OURSELVES 



19 



he doesn't know how to blow h^nTe hT iff^^c 

the widdt'J'X^^^^^ ' ^°"^ r""? "^^"•" ^^^"^"^ers 
berelved ha^^^^^^^ brandishing her broom- 

^wnihl i * random, and shaking over her 

swollen and many-storied boots a skirt weiJhted 

ThJ" ^'Z^y " coat-of-mail of dry mud^ 
hJjt % confidences, with which Mame is in the 
habit of breaking out before no matter whom ge? 

SheTtLTint ^ ''" \'' ^^^^ ^°"^« impatTenS 

^1.^1^^!°''^^'^' '''^*^ ^^^ "ose lowered under her 
black hat with green foliage, hurt that I should thus 

fo^dlt^Sel tr°^^ everybody!':;;!?;'"! 

R„t X, P ' °" ""' "''"''°" '>>« other day ■ ■ '^ 

But she cannot resist hookine herself »»»;„„„ ,„ 

another interlocutor, whose Sund^^.rF *° 

planted on the cause„ay Uke "wo pos rand hi' 

XSon«^rB^s"i'-" °- "^ "- 

his dark apron rainbowed with file-dust Hirft' 
pnnciple because of his idea^h!! t ^^tundaT 
He IS sober, and his face still unkindled but he is 
O' JZTh";^^ '°^ '''' church-going belUo 
soh^ude ' ""'^ ^" "'^^ ^""k in complete 






I 






20 



LIGHT 



Through an open square in the ponderous and 
dirt-shaggy glazing of the smithy one can see a 
portion of the street, and a sketch in bright and 
airy tones of scattered people. It is like the sharply 
cut field of vision in an opera-glass, in which figures 
are drawn and shaded, and cross each other ; where 
one makes out at times a hat bound and befeathered, 
swaying as it goes ; a little boy with sky-blue tie 
and buttoned boots, and tubular knickers hanging 
round his thin bare calves ; a couple of gossiping 
dames in swollen and sombre petticoats who tack 
hither and thither, meet, are mutually attracted 
and dissolve in conversation, like rolling drops of 
ink. In the foreground of this coloured cinema 
which goes by and passes again, Brisbille the 
sinister is ranting away as always. He is red and 
lurid, spotted with freckles, his hair greasy, his 
voice husky. For a moment, while he paces to and 
fro in his cage, draggi.ig shapeless and gaping 
shoes behind him, he whispers to me close to my 
face, in gusts. Brisbille can shout, but not talk; 
there must be a deiinite pressure of anger before 
his resounding huskiness issues from his throat. 

Mame comes in. She sits on a stool to get her 
breath again, all the while brandishing the twisted 
key which she clasps to the prayer-book in her hand. 
Then she unburdens herself and be^'ins to speak in 
fits and starts of this key, of the mishap which 
twisted it, and of all the multiple details which 
overlap each other in her head. But the slipshod 
gloomy smith's attention is sudaenly attracted by 
the hole which shows the street. 

" The lubber ! " he roars. 

It is Monsieur Fontan who is passing, the wine 
merchant and cafe proprietor. He is an expansive 
and imposing man, fat-covered, and white as a 
house. He never says anythi'?g, and is always alone. 
A great personage he is ; he makes money ; he has 



f 



OURSELVES 21 

amassed hundreds of thousands of francs. At noon 
and in the evening he is not to be seen, having dived 
mto the room behind the shop, where he takes his 
meak ,n sohtude. The rest of tJie time he just sits 
at the receipt of custom, and says nothing. There 
IS a hole in his counter where he sUdes the money in. 
H^s^ house is filhng with money from morning tiU 

" He's a money-trap," says Mame. 
He s rich," I say. 

'• Wv^ ''^a\IT''''^- '^'^ *^^*'" J^e^s Brisbille, 
you ve said al there is to say. Why, you damned 

snob you re only a poor drudge hke all us chaps! 

but haven t you just got the snob's ideas ! " 

I make a sign of impatience. It is not true, and 

Bnsbille annoys me with the hatred which he hurls 

hi -fl- 'i^^^L""*?' • ^"^ ^" the more because 
he IS himself visibly impressed by the approach of 
this man who is richer than the rest. The rebel 
opens his steely eye and relapses into silence, like 
the rest of us as the big person grows bigger. 

Mnnl ^"^^' f '^ ^''^^ "^^^'■•" "^y ^"'^t murmurs. 
Monsieur Fontan passes the open door, and we 
can hear the breathing of the corpulent reclure 

rnl.T.^l .?^' u^'"''^ ^^^y the enormous over- 
coat that sheathes him like the hide of a pachyderm 
and IS disappearing, BrisbiUe begins to roar • 

What a snout! Did you see it. eh ? Dir^ you 

hiint^^r: tgt''^^ '"" '^^ '"'''■ ^^ ' T^^ --t 

" l^ur^-^ ^^ ''''^'^^' '" ^ ^"""t «^ ^"^gar delight. 
Luckily, we can expect it'll all burst before long i " 
He laughs a one. Mame goes and sits apart. She 
detests Bnsbille, who is tl e personificatioS of envy 
malice, and coarseness. And everybody hates this 
manonette. too. for his drunkenness and his fomard 
no ions. ^he same, when there i. something you 

want hin o, you chc > .; Sunday morning to caU, 



11 



32 



LIGHT 



M 



and you linger there, knowing tliat you will meet 
others. This has become a tradition. 

" '^^«^y'»"e g<^'"g to cure little Antoinette/' says 
Benott, as he frames himself in the doorway. 

Benolt is like a newspaper. He to whom nothing 
ever happens only lives to announce what is happen- 
mg to others. 

" I know," cries Mame, " they told me so this 
mommg. Several pedple already knew it this 
mommg, at seven. A big famous' doctor's coming 
to the castle itself, for the hunting, and he only 
treats just the eyes." 

" Poor httle angel ! " sighs a woman who has iust 
come in. 

Brisbille intervenes, rancorous and quarrelsome : 
" Yes. they're always going to cure the child, so 

they say. Bad luck to them ! Who cares about 

her ? " 

" Ev I y body does ! " reply two incensed women 
m the same breath. 

" And meanwhile," says Brisbille viciously. " she's 
snuffing it." '' 

And he chews once more his customary saying- 
pompous and foolish as the catch-word of a public 
meeting—" She's a victim of society ! " 

Monsieur Joseph Boneas has come into Brisbille's, 
and he does it complacently, for he is not above 
mixing with the people of the neighbourhood. Here 
too, are Monsieur Pocard, and Crillon, newly shaved' 
his pohshed skin taut and shiny ; and several other 
people. Prominent among them, one marks the 
wavering head of Monsieur Mielvaque who, in his 
timidity and careful respect for custom, took his 
hat off as he crossed the threshold. He is only a 
copying clerk at the factory. He wears much-used 
and dubious Hnen, and a frail and orphaned jacket 
which he dons for all occasions. 

Monsieur Joseph Boneas overawes me. My eyes 



OURSELVES 



23 



are attracted by his delicate profile, the dull gloom 
of his mourning attire, and the lustre of his black 
gloves, which are holding a little black rectangle, 
gilt-edgcd. 

He, too. has removed his hat. So I in my corner 
discreetly remove mine too. 

He is a young man. refined and distinguished, 
who impresses by his innate elegance. Yet he is 
an invalid, tormented by abscesses. One never sees 
him but his neck is swollen or his wrists enlarged by 
a ghastly outcrop. But the sickly body encloses 
bright and sane intelligence. I admire him because 
he is thoughtful and full of ideas and can express 
himself faultlessly. Recently he gave me a lesson 
in sociology, touching the links between the France 
of to-day and the France of tradition, a lesson on 
our origins whose plain perspicuity was a revelation 
to me. I seek his company, I strive to imitate him, 
and certainly he is not aware how much influence 
he has over me. 

All are attentive while he says that he is thinking 
of organising a young people's association in Viviers. 
llien he speaks to me : 

" The farther I go the more I perceive that all 
men are afflicted with short sight. They do not see 
nor can they see. beyond the end of their noses." 

' Yes." say I. 

My reply seems rather scanty, and the sUence 
which follows repeats it mercilessly. It seems so to 
him too, no doubt, for he engages other interlocu- 
tors and I feel myself redden in the darkness of 
Bnsbille's cavern. 

Crillon is arguing with Brisbille on the matter of 
the recent renovation of an old hat, which they 
keep handing to each other and examine ardently. 
Crillon IS sitting, but he keeps his eyes on it. Heart 
and soul he applies himself to the debate. His 
humble trade as a botcher does not allow a fixed 






m 



24 



LIGHT 



ll 



tanff. and he is all alone as he vindicates the value 
of his work. With his fists he hammers the grev- 
striped mealy cloth on his knees, and the lui.r which 
grows ihu kly round his big neck gives him the nape 
of a wild boar. *^ 

" "^ J'-'^ ^*-'lt " he complains. " I'll tell you what 

was the matter with it. It was rain, heavy rain, 
that had drowndcd it. That felt. I tells you. was 
only hke a dirty handkerchief. What does that 
represent-in ebullition of steam, in gumming, and 
the passage of time I " » o- 

Monsieur Justin Pocard is talking to three com- 
panions who, hat in hand, are listening with all their 
ears. He is entertaining them in his sonorous lan- 
guage about the great financial and industrial com- 
bination which he has planned. 
A speculative thrill electrifies the company. 
That'll brush business up ! " says Criilon in 
wonder, torn for a moment from contemplation of 
the hat. but promptly relapsing on it. 

Joseph Boneas says to me in an undertone, and 
1 am flattered : 

" That Pocard is a man of no education, but he 
has practical sense. That's a big idea he's got-at 
least if he sees things as I see them." 

And I, I am thinking that if I were older or more 
influeritial m the district, perhaps I should be in the 
Pocard scheme, which is taking shape, and wiU be 
huge. 

Meanwhile, Brisbille is scowling. An unconfess- 
able disquiet is accumulating in his bosom. All this 
gathering is detaining him at home, and he is tor- 
mented by the desire for drink. He cannot conceal 
tus vinous longing, and squints darkly at the as- 
sembly, On a weekday at this hour, he would already 
have begun to slake his thirst. He is parched he 
bums, he drags himself from group to group The 
wait is longer than he can stand. 



OURSELVES 



25 



Suddenly every one looks out to the street throuffh 
the still open door. 

A carriage is making its way towards the church ; 
It has a green body and silver lamps. The old 
coachman, whose great glove sways the slender 
sceptre of a whip, is so adorned with overlapping 
ca|H>s that he suggests several men on the top of 
each other. The black horse is prancing. 
" He shines Uke a piano," says Benolt. 
The Baroness is in the carriage. The blinds are 
drawn, so she cannot be seen, but every one salutes 
the carriage. 

" All slaves ! " mumbles Brisbille. " Look at 
yourselves now, just look ! All the lot of you. as 
soon as a nch old woman goes by, there you are 
poking your noses into the ground, showing your 
bald hearb, and growing hump-backed ! " 
'* S!ie does good," protests one of the gathering. 
Good ? Ah yes, indeed I " gurgles the evil man, 
wnthmg as though in the grip of some one ; " I call 
It ostentation— that's what / call it." 

Shoulders are shrugged, and Monsieur Joseph 
bondas, always self-controlled, smiles 

Encouraged by that smile I say, " There have 
always been rich people, and there must be " 

" Of course ! " trumpets CriUon, " that's one of 
the cstabhshed thoughts that you fine n your head 
when you fish for 'em. But mark what I says- 
there s some that dies of envy. I'm not one of them 
that dies of envy." 

Monsieur Mielvaque has put his hat back on his 
petrified head and gone to the door. Monsieur 
Joseph Boneas, also, turns his back and goes away 
All at once Cnllon cries, " There's Pdtrarque ' " 
and darts outside on the track of a big body which 
having seen him, opens its long pair of compasses 
and escapes obhquely. 
" And to tliink," says Brisbille with a horrible 



i 



26 



L I G H T 



grimace, when Crillon ha« disappearcti, " that that 
icamp >i a town counciUor ( Ah!by GckI ! " 

jwaying on hU feet, and gaping at the ground. 
Between hu fingers there is a shapeless cigarette 
damp and shaggy, which he roll, in all directions.' 
patching up and resticking it unceasingly 

«K„. ^^i* "^^^ f""''' *"^ ^'"'^^'"'g with shoulder- 
shrugs, the smith rushes at his fire and pulls the 

hellows-chuin. his yawning shoes making him hmp 
\»lcan- At each pull the bellows send spouting 
f om the dust-filled throat of the furnace a cuttin| 
blue comet, hned with crackUng and dazzling white, 
and thercm the man forges. * * 

PurpUng as his agitation rises, nailed to his im- 
pmoning corner, alone of his kind, a rebel against 
all the immensity of things, the man forges. 

^e church bell rang, and we left him there. 
When I was leaving I heard Brisbille growl. No 
doubt I got my quietus as well. But what can he 
have imagined against me ? 
We meet again, all mixed together in the Place 

ri J f^' J" ''"'; P*"* °^ ^*^^" town-except for a 
clan of workers whom one keeps one's eve on— 
everyone goes to church, men as well as women, as 

or^o f °f rP^'^y* °"^ °' g'-^t»t"^e to employers 

Twi «t " ^^'' "''"°'' ""' ^y ^^^'^o"s convictL. 
Two streets open into the Place and two roads 
bordered with apple trees as weU. so that these 
four ways lead town and country to the Place 

;c I 1^ u ^^^P^ ""^ ^ ^^^^' and is delightful. It 
^shaded by a veiy old tree, under which justice 
was formerly admimstered. That is whv thiy call 
It the Great Tree, although there are greater ones 
In winter It is dark, like a perforated umbrella In 
summer it give, the bright green shadow of a 



o I' R s i: IVES 



37 



frrll'^.iT''*'''* '" *wfn"«n« «nd undulating. Peasants 
from the snrr.»und,ng country. i„ their plain coTon 
cap. are waning ,n the old corn.r of the Rue 
Neuvc. heaped tocctlur likr t^ua* ru . 

|«v«l. one pick, „,., swarthy „u.li„c. out C". 
lypi. and facts as bnghely coloured a> aooli^ 

.h^i^ V *^j briK.inu:i Rcs|H.ct:,blc pe„pi„ ,a|,„ 
crovvu. .ma talk business piously 

non auorns all along the lines of trees with em. 
broidery of shadow and of gold, whe e bi yck 
tnkle and carriages nimble echoingly ; at d the 

w!Sn T'- ^*"^^' 'rK-lrawn readL of water 
whereon the sun spreads sheets of hght and scatters 

side o??t^T''- , ^^'"1 "'''"^ the'road. on^'uh" 
side of Us stone-hard surface, one sees the uleasant 
cultivated earth the bits of land sewn to eadi o he 
and many-hucd. brown or green as the b mard- 
clotl. then pahng in the distance. Here and there 
on this map ,n colours copses bulge forth. The bv- 

other a'tlea'^nd^ "'/' t""' ^*"^-'' ^'^»~' 
orchards ^ "^' ^^'"^ *"^^"^"" ''"^^-'^^^^ oi 

This landscape holds us by the soul. It is a water 
colour now (for it rained a little last nigh?) M^t 
ts washed stones, its tiles varnished anew its rTofs 
that are half slate and half light, its shin ng pave 

sTvtith H^TTi!'^'' .;" P^^^' ' ''' d^'Hcat^fy'^brue 
sky with clouds hke silk>- paper ; and between two 

house-fronts of yellow ochre^and tan. agS the 

purple vdvet of distant forests, there is thlneigh- 

bounng steepk. which is like ours and yet different 



■ 



•• LIGHT 

Roundly one's gaw cmbratc all the panorama, 
which I* <lcliKhtful a* the rainb.»w. 

I- rum th« placi.. then, where one firU hlmwif v> 
alMimlantly at home, we enter the chunh. From 
U»c depth* of his thicket of hghti the gcKKl pHett 
murmurs the great inftnite i^pccrh to u^ bh^Hen u*. 

fml ^H "V^^'r*-" "y «"J altogether, like father 
and mother both. In the manorial |)ew. the fore- 
^«t of all. one gUmpHe. the Maruui. .,f Monthyon. 
who has the air of an ofhcer. and liin mother-in-law 
Baroness (.rille, who in dressed like an ordinary ladv 

tmcrgmg from church, the men go away the 
TTa?! 7u':^ "\'* '"""• Krtulgingly. and ciie to 
Ltter "^ ' "" '" '*'' ^""'"« «^°"P* 

At noon the shops close. The fine ones do it un- 
awisted ; the others cU«e bv the antics of some 

fh^^.'^^^TK ^f^-'-^^ »""»*«" to carry and fit the 
Shutters. Then there is a great void 

I .l^Z '"f ** I wander in the streets. In ihc ho se 
I am btjred. and yet outside I do not know what to 
do. I have no friend and no calls to pay. I am 
already too b.g to mmglc with some, and too httle 
yet to associate with others. The cafes and licensed 
shops hum. Jingle and smoke already. I do not go 
to cafds. on principle, and because of that fondness 
for spending nothing which my aunt has impressed 
on me. So aimless I walk through the deserted 
streets, which at every corner yawn before my feet 
The hours strike, and I have the impression that 

them ^'*'' ^ ' *^** """^ "^'^ '^^ "'^^'""5 ^i'h 

I steer in the direction of the fine gardens which 

slope towards the river. A httle enLusly iTok 

over the walls at the tops of these opulent Tn- 

stiU clings the soiled, out-of-fashion finery of last 
summer. ^ '■ 



OURSELVES 



«9 



Far frotn thm and a good while after. I encounter 

lit': ***•i•?^"^ ^'•'' *^«»«"» Pharmacy. He 
hesitate* and doiibcs. and docs not know where to 

flL I '^'^' ^"'"''*^* ^'* '^'''''* »'•« *«'"« c«"ar with 
tiirneduown c»rm «. and It In IncotninK (iUnmy. 

to him that nothmK was pushinK him fonvard. A 
naif cxtinKUHhi..! cigarette vegetates in hit mouth 

He comes with me. and | take his silence in tow 
as far as the avenue of phinc trees. There are 
several figures outspared in its level peace. Some 
young girls attract my attention; thev apncar 
against the dullness of house-fronts and against 
»hop-fronts in mourning. Some of the charming 
ones are accompanied by their mothers, who look 
hke caricatures of them. 
Tudor has left me without my noticing it 
Already and slowly everywhere, the taverns 
begin o shme and cry out. In the grcyness of 
twilight cm- clis( ems ;> dark and mighty crowd 

ftnrl!;^ a7'\ '" ^'"'"' S''^^^^'" *^ *««•* o' darkhng 
■torm. and flashes emerge from them. 



And lo, now the night approaches to soften the 

Along the riverside, to which I have gone down 
alone and listless, idylls dimly appear-some shapes 
which are sketched in crayon, which seek and jSn 
each other. There are couples that appear and 
vanish, strictly avoiding the httle light that is left 
Night is wiping out colours and features and names 
from both sorts of stroller. 

I notice a woman who waits, standing on the 
m-er-bank. Her silhouette ha. pearly grey skv 
behind It, so that she seems to support the darkness 

the beauty of her feminine stillness. Not far from 



30 



LIGHT 



Lia 



that consummate caryatid, among tlie black columns 

of the tall trees laid against the lave of the blue 

and beneath their cloudy branches, there are mystic 

enlacements which move to and fro ; and hardly 

can one distinguish the two halves of which they 

are made, for the temple of night is enclosing them. 

The ancient hut of a fisherman is outHned on the 

grassy slope. Below it. crowding reeds rustle in the 

current; and where they are more sparse they 

fashion concentric orbs upon the gleaming, fleeing 

water. The landscape has something e.xotic or 

antique about it. You are no matter where in the 

world or among the centuries. You are on some 

corner of the eternal earth where men and women 

are drawmg near to each other, and cling together 

while they wrap themselves in mystery. 

• • • . 

Dreamily. I ascend again towards the sounds and 
the swarming of the town. There, the Sunday even- 
ing rendezvous— the prime concern of the men— is 
less discreet. Desire displays itself more crudely on 
the pavements Voices chatter and laughter dis- 
solves, even through closed doors ; there are shouts 
and songs. 

Up there one sees clearly. Faces are discovered 
by the harsh light of the gas-jets and its reflection 
from plate-glass shop windows. Antonia goes by 
surrounded by men who bend forward and look at 
her with desire amid their clamour of conversation 
She sees me. and a little sound of appeal comes from 
her across the escort that presses upon her. But I 
turn aside, and let her go by. 

When she and her harness of men have dis- 
appeared. I smell in their wake the odour of Petrolus 
He is lampman at the factory. Yellow, dirty 
cadaverous, red-eyed, he smells rancid, and was 
perhaps nurtured on paraffin. He is some one 



OURSELVES ,3, 

washed away. You do not see him so much as smell 

Other women are ther- \r nv = q„«,i u 
too joined in aU that ; ,e:mal<;;'r ^ ' ' 

eadrotlfe/^T-^fT,^^^ '"^^ ^"d take hold of 
each other, an isolated woman stands hke a nn«;i- 
and makes an empty space around her ^ *' 

It IS Louise Verte. She is fearfully uclv and sHp 

sav h^e TT\ !?""f >'' ^* ^ t^'"'-'-: 'so th y 
say she need not have been. She reerets thi^ 3 
relates it without shame, in order ?o be revenged 
on virtue. She would hke to have a lover Kf 
one wants her, because of her bonv face and her 
scraped appearance, from a sort of eczema clt^tl 
make sport of her. knowing her needs for the dT 
closures of their elders have left a ^t^in L .1 
A five-year-old girl pointsTer t my fin" r at LouTse 
and twitters. " She wants a man '' ^ ''^ 

a dead'lfif'Vl ^^^^°"' ^^^"g about aimlessly, hke 
a dead leaf. Vdron. who revolves when he itiav 

S"lLtto t- • t" "."^^^"^y -an. who': ":^ 
nead leans to the nght and wears a colourless smile 
he hves on a few rents and does not work He k 
good and affectionate, and sometimes he is ^veJ 
come by attacks of compassion. °'^^'' 

Wron and Louise Verte see one another-and 
^f eacTther. '^'^"^ ^^ ^^^^^^^^ ^^^^ - afrl^d 

Wn'rf R '°i °" *^^ ""^'S^" °f passion, is Monsieur 
& .7^^'' ^^'^ compassionable. in spite of Ws 
mtdlec ual superiority. Between the tumed-do^ 

thrkasaiowel '"^ "^^ .T"^" ^^^^^^ ''^^'^^ 
tnicK as a towel— a mournful yellow face is stuck 

J t^mi :rs rrsf, ^ctsrto"- ?»^ 

fruitless Shadows ^lr^^^:r ::.^tZ 



v\ 



■'lit 



32 



LIGHT 



I 



ghosts, these poor wayfarers, divided and incom- 
plete. 

Where am I ? Facing the workmen's flats, whose 
countless windows stand sharply out in their huge 
flat background. It is there that Marie Tusson lives, 
whose father, a clerk at Messrs. Gozlan's like myself 
is manager of the property. I steered to this place 
instinctively, without confessing it to myself, brush- 
ing people and things without mingling with them. 

Marie is my cousin, and yet I hardly ever see her. 
We just say good day when we meet, and she smiles 
at me. 

I lean against a plane tree and think of Marie. 
She is tall, fair, strong, and amiable, and she goes 
modestly clad, hke a wide-hipped Venus; her 
beautiful lips shine Uke her eyes. 

To know her so near agitates me among the 
shadows. If she appeared before me as she did the 
last time I met her, if in the middle of the dark I 
saw the shining radiance of her face, the swaying of 
her figure, traced in silken lines, and her little sister's 
hand in hers — I should tremble. 

But that does not happen. The bluish cold back- 
ground only shows me the two second-floor windows 
pleasantly warmed by Ughts, of which one is perhaps 
she herself. But they take no sort of shape, and 
remain in another world. 

At last my eyes leave that constellation of win- 
dows among the trees, that vertical and silent firma- 
ment. Then I make for my home, in this evening 
which comes at the end of all the days I have lived. 



Little Antoinette— how comes it that they leave 
her all alone like this ?— is standing in my path and 
holding a hand out towards me. It is her way that 
she is begging for. I guide her, ask questions, 
and listen, leaning over her and making little steps. 






OURSELVES 33 

But she is too Uttle and too lispful, and cannot ex- 

ft?\^ ^^'^''^J ^- ^'e^ '^' child-who sees so feeWy 

hat already she ,s blind in the evening-as far as 

thejcw door of the dilapidated dwellin| where she 

In my street, in front of his lantern-shapec use 

Ji'^/'l'TF"^^ ^^'•"^^'•' °ld E"do is ^standing 
darkly hooded, and pointed like the house 

I am a httle afraid of him. Assuredly he has not 

got a clean conscience. But however guiltv he is 

compassionable ; I stop and speak to him. He lifts 

to me ou of the night of his hood a face pallid and 

SDrin^" {/^nf ^ ^^".* *^' ^"^^'^^'•' °f approaching 
spnng^ Heedless he hears, shapes " yes ''with the 
tip of his lips, and says : 

v^l'r!^'h *r?^^ r^'' "°'^ '^"^^ "^y ^i^e «Jied, twelve 

rvP J '^ >y',^''" "".''^y ^^°"^' *^«l^e years that 
I ve heard the last words she said to me " 

And the poor maniac gUdes farther away, hooded 
m his unintelligible mourning ; and certainly he 
does not hear me n him good night 

At the back o. old downstairs room, a fire 

has been hghted. ..ame is sitting on th^ stool 
beside It m the glow of the flaming coal, outstretch 
ing her hands, chnging to the warmth °"''''^^^^ 

Entenng. I see the bowl of her back. Her lean 
neck has a cracked look and is white as a bone 
Musingly my aunt takes and holds a pair of idle 
tongs. I take my seat. Mame does not hke the 
s^knce m which I wrap myself. She lets the tongs 
fall with a jangung shock, and then begins viva- 

bourhLd • '" """ "'""' ''" P^^P'^ °^ '''^ "^ig^- 
"There's everything here. No need to go to 
I'ans nor even so much as abroad. This part it's 
a httle world cut out on the pattern of the others " 
she adds, proudly wagging her worn-out head. 
Ihere aren t many of them who've got the where- 



I i 






|i 



34 



LIGHT 



withal, and they're not of much ccount. Puppets, 
if you like, yes. That's accord, .g how one sees it, 
because at bottom there's no puppets — there's people 
that look after themselves, liecau^e each of us always 
deserves to be happy, my lad. And here, the same 
as everywhere, the two kinds of people that there 
are — the discontented and the respectable, because, 
my lad, what's aiways been, always will be." 



CHAPTER III 



EVENING AND DAWN 

Just at the moment when I was settling down to 
audit the Sesmaisons account — I remember that 
detail — there came an unusual sound of steps and 
voices, and before I could even turn round I heard 
a voice through the glass door say, " Monsieur 
Paulin's aunt is very ill." 

The sentence stuns me. I am standing, and some 
one is standing opposite me. A draught shuts the 
door with a bang. 

Both of us set off. It is Benoit who has come to 
fetch me. We hurry ; I breathe heavily. Crossing 
the busy factory we meet acquaintances who smile 
at me, not knowing the turn of affairs. 

The night is cold and nasty, with a keen wind. 
The sky drips with rain. We jump over puddles 
as we walk. I stare fixedly at Benoit's square 
shoulders in front of me, and the dancing tails of 
his coat as the wind hustles them along the noc- 
turnal way. 

Passing through the suburban quarter, the wind 
comes so hard between the infrequent houses that 
the bushes on either side shiver and press towards 



I 

H 
1 



EVENING AND DAWN 35 

us, and seem to unfurl. Ah, we are not made for 
the greater happenings ! 



I meet first in the room the resounding glare of 
a wood fire and an almost repelling heat. The 
odours of camphor and ether catch my throat. 
People that I know are standing round the bed. 
They turn to me and speak all together. 

I bend down to look at Mame. She is inlaid upon 
the whiteness of the bed, which is motionless as 
marble. Her face is sunk in the cavity jf the 
pillow. Her eyes are half closed and do not move ; 
her skin has darkened. Each breath hums in her 
throat, and beyond that slight stirring of larynx 
and lips, her little frail body moves no more than 
a doll's. She has not got her cap on, and her grey 
hair is unravelled on her head like flocks of dust. 

Several voices at once explain to me that it is 
" double congestion, and her heart as well." She 
was attacked by dizziness, by prolonged and terrible 
shivering. She wandered, mentioned me, then sud- 
denly collapsed. The doctor has no hope, but is 
coming back. The Reverend Father Plot was here 
at five. 

Silence hovers. A woman puts a log in the fire, 
in the centre of the dazzling cluster of snarling flames 
whose light throws the room into total agitation. 



i 



1 



For a long time I look upon that face where ugli- 
ness and goodness are mingled in such a heartrend- 
ing way. My eyes seek those already almost shut, 
whose light is hardening. Something of darkness, 
an internal shadow which is of herself, overspreads 
and disfigures her. One may see now how outworn 
she was, how miraculously she still held on. 

This tortured o.nd condemned woman is all that 



Hi 



36 



LIGHT 



has looked after me for twenty years. For twenty 
years she took my hand before she took my ami. 
She always prevented me from understanding that 
I was an orphan. DcHcate and small as I was for 
90 long, she was taller and stronger and better than 
I.! And at this moment which shows me the past 
again in one glance, I remember that she beautified 
the affairs of my cliildhood like an old magician ; 
and my head goes lower as T think of her untiring 
admiration for me. How she did love me ! And 
she must love me still, confusedly, if some glimmering 
lighf. yet lasts in the depths of her. What will be- 
come of me — all alone ? 

She was so sensitive, and so restless ! A hundred 
details of her vivacity come to Ufe again in my eyes. 
Stupidly I contemplate the poker, the tongs, the big 
spoon— all the things she used to flourish as she 
chattered. There they are— fallen, paralysed, mute. 

As in a dream I go back to the times when she 
talked and shouted, to days of youth, to days of 
spring and of springtime dresses ; and all the while 
my gaze, piercing that gay and airy vision, settles 
on the dark stain of the hand that Ues there like the 
shadow of a hand on the sheet. 

My eyes are jumbhng things together. I see our 
garden in the first fine days of the year, our garden 
— it is behind that wall — so narrow is it that the 
reflected sunshine from our two windows dapples 
the whole of it ; so small that it only holds some 
pot-encaged plants — except for the three currant 
bushes which have always been there. In the 
scarves of the sun-rays a bird — a robin— is hopping 
on the twigs hke a rag jewel. All dusty in the sun- 
shine, our red hound MirUton is warming himself. 
So gaunt is he you feel sure he must be a fast runner. 
Certainly he runs after glimpsed rabbits, on Sun- 
days in the country, but he never caught any. He 
never caught anything but fleas. When I lag 






EVENING AND DAWN 37 

behind, because of my littleness, my aunt turns 
round on the edge of the footpath and holds out her 
arms, and I run to her. and she stoops as 1 come 
and calls me by my name. 



" Simon ! Simon ! " 

A woman is here. I wrench myself from the dream 
which had come into the room and taken solidity 
before me. I stand up ; it is my cousin Marie. 

She offers me her hands among the candles which 
flutter by the bed. In their poor starlight her face 
appears haggard and wet. My aunt loved her. Her 
lips are trembling on her rows of sparkling teeth • 
the whole breadth of her bosom heaves quickly. 

I have sunk again into the arm-chair. Memories 
flow again, while the sick woman's breathing is 
longer drawn and her stillness becomes more and 
more inexorable. Things she used to say return to 
my hps. Then my eyes are raised, and look for 
Mane, and turn upon her. 



She has leaned against the wall, and remains so 
overcome. She invests the corner where she stands 
with something like profane and sumptuous beauty 
Her changeful chestnut hair, like bronze and gold 
forms moist and disordered scrolls on her forehead 
and her innocent cheeks. Her neck, especially her 
white neck appears to me. The atmosphere is so 
choking, so visibly heavy that it enshrouds us as if 
the room were on fire, and she has loosened the neck 
of her dress, and her throat is lighted up by the 
flaming logs. I smile weakly at her. My eyes 
wander over the fullness of her hips and her out- 
spread shoulders, and fasten in that downfallen 
room on her throat, white as dawn. 



m 



UiS 



38 



LIGHT 



The doctor has been again. He stood some time 
in silence by the bed ; and as he looked our hearts 
froze. He said it would be over to-night, and put the 
phial in his hand bhck in his pocket. Then, regret- 
ting that he could not stay, he disappeared. 

And we stay on, beside the dying woman— so 
fragile that we dare not touch her nor even try to 
speak to her. 

Madame Piot settles down in a chair ; she crosses 
her arms, lowers her head, and the time goes by. 

At long intervals, people take shape in the dark- 
ness by the door, people who come in on tip-toe, 
whisper to us, and go away. 

The moribund moves her hands and feet, and con- 
torts her face. A gurgling comes from her throat, 
which we can hardly see in the cavity that is like a 
nest of shadow under her chin. She has blenched, 
and the skin that is drawn over the bones of her 
face like a shroud grows whiter every moment. 

Intent upon her breathing, we throng about her. 
We offer her our hands — so near and so far — and do 
not know what to do. 

I am watching Marie. She iias sunk on to the 
little stool, and her young full-blooming body over- 
flows it. Holding her handkerchief in her teeth, 
she has come to arrange the pillow, and leaning over 
the bed, she puts one knee on a chair. The move- 
ment reveals her leg for the moment, curved like a 
beautiful Greek vase, while the skin seems to shine 
through the black transparency of the stocking like 
clouded gold. Ah ! I lean forward towards her 
with a stifled incipient appeal above this bed which 
is changing into a tomb. The border of the tragic 
dress has fallen again, but I cannot remove my eyes 
from that profound obscurity. I look at Marie, and 
look at her again ; and though I knew her, it seems 
to me that I wholly discover her. 
"I can't hear anything now," says a woman. ■ 



EVENING AND DAWN 



39 



•• Yes, I can " 

" No. no I" the other repeats. 

Then I see Crillon's huge back bending over. My 
aunt s moiuh opens gently and remains open. The 
eyeUds fail back almost completely upon the stiffened 
gleam of the eyes, which S(|uint in the grey and bony 
mask. I see Crillon's big hand hover over the little 
mummiAed face, lowering tlic eyelids, and keeping 
them closed. ^ 

Marie utters a cry when this movement tells her 
that our aunt has just died. 

She sways. My hand goes out to her, I take her 
support, and enfold her. Fainting, she cUngs to me 
and for one moment I carr>'— gently, heavily— all 
the young woman's weight. The neck of her dress 
is undone and falls like foliage from her throat, and 
I just saw the real curve of her bosom, nakedly and 
distractedly throbbing. 

Her body is agitated. She hides her face in her 
hands and then turns it to mine. It chanced that 
our faces met, and my lips gathered the wonderful 
savour of her tears ! 



The room fills with 1-i mentations ; there is a con- 
tinuous sound of deep sighing. It is overrun by 
neighbours become friends, to whom no one pays 
attention. *^ ' 

And now. in this sacred homelet where death still 
bleeds. I cannot prevent a heavy heart-beat in me 
towards the girl who is prostrated like the rest but 
who reigns there, in spite of me, of herself, of every- 
thing. I feel myself agitated by an obscure and huge 
rapture— the birth of my flesh and my vitals among 
these shadows. Beside this poor creature who was 
so blended with me and who is falling, falling through 
a hell of eternity, I am uphftcd by a sort of hope ' 

I want to ax my attention on the fixity of the 



::l 



40 



I, I G I! T 



ill 



III 



bed. I put my hand over my eyes to shut out alt 
thought save of the dead woman, dcfcncelrss already, 
reclining on that earth into which she will sink. But 
my looks, impelled by superhuman curiosity, escape 
between my fingers to this other woman, half re- 
vealed to me in the tumult of sorrow — and my C5'C» 
cannot come out of her. 

Madame Piot has changed the candles and at- 
tached a band to support the dead woman's chin. 
Framed in this napkin, which is knotted over the 
skull in her woolly grey hair, the face looks like a 
hook-nosed mask of green bronze with a vitrified 
line of eyes. The knees make two sharp summits 
under the sheet ; one's eye runs along the thm rods 
of the shins, and the feet lift the linen hke two in- 
driven nails. 

Slowly Marie prepares to go. She has closed the 
neck of her <!. . and hidden herself in her cloak. 
She comes up <. me, sore-hearted ; and with her 
tears for a moment quenched, she smiles at me with- 
out speaking. I halt rise, my hands tremble towards 
her smile as if to touch it, above the past and the 
dust of my second mother. 

Towards the end of the night, when the dead fire 
is scattering chiUiness, the women go away, one by 
one. One hour, two hours, I remain alone. I pace 
the room in one direction i' nd another ; then I look 
— and shiver. My aunt is no more. There is only 
left of her something indistinct, struck down, of sub- 
terranean colour, and her place is desolate. Now, 
close to her, I am alone ! Alone, magnified by my 
affliction, master of my future, disturbed and 
numbed by the newness of the things now beginning. 
At last the window grows pale, the ceiling turns 
grey, and the candle flames wink in the first traces 
of light. 

I shiver without end. In the depths of my dawn, 
in the heart of this room where I have always been. 



EVENING AND DAWN 41 

I recall the image o( a woman who filled it— a woman 
standing at tht; chimney-corner, where a gladHome 
fire tiameH. and she ih garbed in reflected purple, her 
corsage scarlet, her face golden, as she holds to the 
glow those hands transparent and beautiftd a* Hamcs. 
In the darkness, from my vigil, I hmk at hir. 

***** t 

The two night H which followed were spent in 
mournful motionlcssness at the back of that room 
where the trembling ho!»t of lights seemed to give 
animation to dead things. During the two days, 
various activitiis brought me distraction, at first 
distressing, then depressing. 

The last night 1 o|Kned my aunt's jewel-box. It 
was called " the httle bo.x." It was on the dressing- 
table, at the bottom «)f pilcd-up litter. I found 
some topaz earrings of a bygone period, a gold 
cross, equally outdistanced, small and slender, a 
httle girl's, or a young girl's ; and then, wrapped in 
tissue-paper hke a relic, a portrait of myself when 
a child. Last, a written page, torn from one of my 
old school ci)py-books, which she had not been able 
throw wholly away. Transparent at the folds, 
.w- worn sheet was fragile as lace, and gave the 
illusion of being equally precious. That was all the 
treasure my aunt had collected. That jewel-box held 
the poverty of her life and the wealth of her heart. 



It poured with rain on the day of the funeral. All 
the morning, groups of people succeeded each other 
in the big cavern of our room, a going and coming 
of sighs. My aunt was laid in her coffin towards 
two o'clock and it was carried then into the passage, 
where visitors' feet had brought dirt and puddles. 
A belated wreath was awaited, and then the um- 
brellas opened, and under their black undulation the 
procession moved off. 



4* 



LIGHT 



VVhcn wc came out of the church it was not far 
off four o'clock. The rain had not stripped, and 
little rivers dashed dc vn from either side of the 
procewions »luggi»h flow along the street. There 
were many fl(.wers. so that the hearse made a blot 
of relief, beautiful enough. There were many p«>f»plc 
too, and I turned rountl several times. Always I 
saw old Kudo in his black cowl, hopping along in 
the mud, hunchbacke<l as a crow. Marie was walk- 
ing among some women in the second half »>f the 
file, whose frail and streaming rtxif the hearse drew 
along irregularly, with jerks and halts. Her gait 
was jaded. She was thinking only of our sorrow I 
All things darkened again to my eyes, in the ugliness 
of the evening. 

The cemetery is full of mud under the muslin of 
fallen rain, and the footfalls make a sticky sound in 
it. There arc a few trees, naked and paralysed. 
The sky is marshy, and sprinkled with crows. 

The coffin, with its shapeless human shape, is 
lowered froui the hearse and disappears in the fresh 
earth. 

The march past. Marie and her father take their 
places beside me. I say thanks to every one, in the 
same tone. They are all like each other, with their 
gestures of impotence, their dejected faces, the 
words they get ready and pour out as they pass 
before me, and their dark costume. No one has come 
from the castle ; but in spite of that there are many 
people, and they all converge upon m< I pluck up 
courage. 

Monsieur Lucien Gozlan comes forward, calls me 
" my dear sir," and brings me the condolences of 
his uncles, while the rest watch us. 

Joseph Boneas says " my dear friend " to me, and 
that affects me deeply. Monsieur Pocard says " If 
I had been advised in time, I would have said a few 
words. It is regrettable " 



EVENING AND DAWN 43 

*" .!7. /*!"'. V^«/''n/». and the gloom but bucki. 
It % finished. Lets go." 

Marie Ufts to me her Horrow-Iaved face She i« 

When wc arrive in our quarter, twilight ha> m- 
Little Antoinette, cautiously feeUng her way by 

whth .K I ' ""'py ''^' *'«"'^'' »" ^»»at twilight of 

atltint^l^'^Sti""' ^" '"^'^^' ^ P^"' ^^«"«^ ft- 
^^" Poor httle angel ! " ,ays a woman as she goes 

Marie and her father are the only ones left near 
me when we pass RampaiUe's tavern. Some men 

blackS.'' '^" '"""'' ''' ^''''"^ '' tableTthrj; 

We reach my home. Marie offers me her hand 
and we hesitate. " Come in " 

She enters. We look at the dead room. The 
fioor IS wet and the wind blows through as if we 

ly'-''' I'lur- ""'''' '' "^ '^^ crying, tndsh: 
J^y^J }. w>" come to-morrow and tidy up. Till 

We take each other's hand in confused hesitation. 



A httle later there is scraping at the door ; then 
a timid knock, and a long figure appears 
^ It IS Veion who presents himself with an awkward 
-ir. ni^ ,all and badly joiiucd body swings hke a 
hanging sign-board. He is an original anii senti 



44 



LIGHT 



mental soul, but no one has ever troubled to find 
out what he is. He begins : 

" My young friend — hum, hum " he repeats 

this formless sound every two or three words, like a 
sort of clock with a sonorous tick ; " one may be 
wanting money, you know, for something — hum, 
hum — all this expense — and I said to myself, I'll 
take him some " 

He scrutinises me as he repeats " Hum, hum." 
I shake his hand, with tears in my eyes. I do not 
need money, but I know I shall never forget that 
action, so good, so supernatural. 

And when he has swung himself out, abashed by 
my refusal, embarrassed by the unusual size of his 
legs ard his heart, I sit down in a corner, seized with 
shi' g. Then I obhterate myself in another 
comer, equally forlorn. It seems as if Marie has 
gone away with all I have. I am in mourning and 
I am all alone — because of her. 



CHAPTER IV 



MARIE 

The seat leans against the grey wall, at the spot 
where a rose tree hangs over it and the lane begins 
to slope to the river. I asked Marie to come, and I 
am waiting for her in the evening. 

When I asked her — in sudden decision after so 
many days of hesitation — to meet me here this even- 
ing, she was silent, astonished. But she did not 
refuse ; she did not answer. Some people came and 
she went away. I am waiting for her, after that 
prayer. 

Slowly I stroll to the river-bank. When I return. 



MARIE 



45 



some one is on the seat, enthroned in the shadow 
The face is indistinct, but in the apparel of mourning 
in?';^''' '^f "«<^k-opening. like a faint pale h^art^ 
and the misty expansion of the skirt. Stooping I 
hear her low voice : "^'"'g. a 

" I've come, you sec." 
And " Marie ! " I say. 

• \u^ ^^^^ ^^^^*^® ^^^' ^"d we remain silent She 

Sl^""'TT?'"y^ ^^'■^"^^^ ^'' black veils I can 
make out the whiteness of her face and neck and 
hands-all her beauty like light enclosed. 

l^or me she had only been a charming picture— a 
passer-by, one apart, hving her own hfe. Now she 
has hstened to me, she has come at my caU ; she 
has brought herself here. 

• • , 

The day has been scorching. Towards the end of 
the afternoon, storm-rain burst over the world, and 
then ceased One can still hear belated drops fall- 
mg from the branches which overhang the wall 
The air is charged with odours of earth and leaves 
and flowers, and wreaths of wind go heavily by 

andtother '"' '' '^^^^ ' ^'^ '^''^' °^ '-'^^-6 

toLtr hpri:':^^^^^^^^^^ "^^"^ ■ ' '^^^ — 

" I am always thinking of you." 

Hearing these words she is silent. Her silence 
grows greater and greater in the shadows. I have 
drawn stiU nearer, so near that I feel on my cheek 

care^^me "^'^' '' "'"' '^'' ^^^ ^"^^^^ 

Then, to keep myself in countenance, or to smoke 
I have struck a match, but I make no use of the 
gleam at my finger-tips. It shows me Marie, quiver- 
ing a httle ; it gilds her pale face. A smile irises on 
her face ; I have seen her full of that smile. 



y 



n 






:i 






i\i 



46 



LIGHT 



My eyes grow dim and my hands tremble. I wish 
she would speak. 

" Tell me " Her down-bent neck unfolds, and 

she lifts her head to speak. At that moment, by the 
light of the flame that I hold, whose great revealing 
kindness I am guarding, our eyes fall on an inscrip- 
tion scratched in the wall— a heart, and inside it 
two initials, H-S. Ah, that design was made by me, 
one evening ! Little Helen was lolling there then, 
and I thought I adored her. For a moment I am 
overpowered by this apparition of a mistake bygone 
and forgotten. Marie does not know, but only to 
see those names begun, this seeming presence 
between us, she dare not speak. 

As the match is on the point of going out, I throw 
it down. The little flame's last flicker has lighted 
up for me the edge of the poor black serge skirt, so 
worn that it shines a little even in the evening, and 
has shown me the girl's shoe. There is a hole in the 
heel of the stocking, and we have both seen it. In 
quick shame, Marie draws her foot under her skirt. 
And I, I tremble still more that my eyes have 
touched a little of her hidden flesh, a fragment of 
her real innocence. 

Gently she stands up in the greyness and puts an 
end to this first fate-changing meeting. 

We return. The obscurity is outstretched all 
around and against us. Together and alone we go 
into the following chambers of the night. My eyes 
follow the sway of her body in her dress, against the 
vaguely luminous background of the wall. Amid 
the night her dress is night also ; she is there— 
wholly I There is a singing in my ears ; an anthem 
fills the world. 

li^ the street, where there are no more wayfarers, 
she walks on the edge of the causeway. So that my 
face may be on a level with hers, I walk beside her 
5 gutter, and the cold water enters 



m 



my 



MARIE 



47 



ber to shake her hand BvhVrH°"^'^ 

" To-n.o.ow/' and st an^we'rYd •' ^Y^e '^"^ ^° '^^' 

populous buildin^of flats whtr.^^ r^^ *° *^^ S^^^t 
two dark flights of stemrw I ^^ ^''^'- ^ ascended 
lowed a long^bowefedt'taf L'' T^ '""t 
and enter. Complete silence Jet'mJ'- 'L^'''^^ 

curtains invest it with brofde?«i l^t ^^'"*'!'^ 

a cold and'^SIwle S'^- '[ft'"' ""'y "y 
as a picture ^ ' ""^ ""^''^'y "d chaste 

With a moll^nt'aTote^^^^^?."?;^ ■>!['«'• 
trembling I lift the quiUs thaTc?oth"1? '"""^^ *""^ 
gaze enters it, and mv knJ.ft'.n , u, ""'' "^ 
edge of this g^eat htl^tUn^l-T'^}'"^ ™ ">« 
dead things.! oneofatt'^s::^;^^^" """""« 



Ill 



li 



48 LIGHT 

Crillon's honest trivialities, of Brisbille's untimely 
outbursts, of the rumours anent the Pocard scheme, 
and the progress of the Association of Avengers, a 
society to promote national awakening, founded by 
Monsieur Joseph Boneas. The same complex and 
monotonous existence bears me along as it does 
everybody. But since that tragic night when my 
sorrow was transformed into joy at the lyke-wake 
in the old room, in truth the world is no longer what 
it was. People and things appear to me shadowy 
and distant when I go out into the current of the 
crowds, when I am dressing in my room and decide 
that I look well in black, when I sit up late at my 
table, in the sunshine of hope. Now and again the 
memory of my aunt comes bodily back to me. 
Sometimes I hear people pronounce the name of 
Marie. My body starts when it hears them say 
" Marie," who know not what they say. And there 
are moments when our separation throbs so warmly 
that I do not know whether she is here or absent. 



During this walk that we have just had together, 
the summer and the sweetness of living have weighed 
more than ever on my shoulders. 

Her huge home, which is such a swarming hive 
at certain times, is now immensely empty in the 
labyrinth of its dark stairs and the landings whence 
issue the narrow closed streets of its corridors, and 
where in the corners taps drip upon drain-stones. 
Our immense, our naked soUtude pervades us. An 
exquisite emotion takes hold of me while we are 
slowly climbing the steep and methodical way. 
There is something human in the stairway, in the 
inevitable shapes of its spiral and its steps cut out 
in the quick, in the rhythmic repetition of its steps. 
A round skylight pierces the sloping roof up thert, 
and it is the only light for this part of the people's 



MARIE 



4') 



house this poor internal city. The darkness which 
runs down the walls of the well whence we are striv- 
ing to emerge step by step conceals our laborious 
chmb towards the gap of daylight. Shadowed and 
secret as we are, it seems to me that we are mounting 

Oppressed by a common languor, we at last sat 
down side by side on a step. There is no sound in 
the building under the one round window bending 
over us. We lean on each other, because of the 
stairs narrowness. Her warmth enters into me • I 
feel m:,self agitated by that obscure light which 
radiates from her. I share with her the heat of her 
body and her thought itself. The darkness deepens 
round us Hardly can I see the crouching girl there, 
warm and hollowed like a nest. 

I call her by her name, very quietly— and it is as 
though I made a loud avowal ! She turns, and it 
seems that this is the first time I have seen her 
naked face. " Kiss me." she says ; and without 
speaking we stammer, and murmur, and laugh. 

Together we are looking at a Httle square piece 
of paper. I found it on the seat which the rose tree 
overhangs on the edge of the downward lane. Care- 
f uUy folded, it had a forgotten look, and it was waiting 
there, detained for a moment by its timorous weight 
A few hnes of careful writing cover it. We read it • 
I do not know how speaks the pious heart: 
nothmg I know ; th' enraptured martyr I. Only 
1 know the tears that brimming start, your beauty 
blended with your smile to espy." 

Then, having read it. we read it again, moved by 
a mystenous influence. And we finger the chance- 
captured paper, without knowing what it is, without 
understanding very well what it says 



1 si: 



til: 



50 



LIGHT 



When I asked her to go with me to the cemetery 
that Sunday, she agreed, as she does to all I ask her. 
I watched her arms brush the roses as she came in 
through the gardens. We walked in silence ; more 
and more we are losing the habit of talking to each 
other. We looked at the latticed and flower-decked 
square where our aunt sleeps— the garden which is 
only as big as a woman. Returning from the 
cemetery by way of the fields, the sun already 
low, we join hands, seized with triumphant 
dehght. 

She is wearing a dress of black delaine, and the 
skirt, the sleeves, and the collar wave in the breeze. 
Sometimes she turns her radiant face to me, and it 
Mems to grow still brighter when she looks at me. 
Shghtly stooping she walks, though among the grass 
and flowers whose tints and grace shine in reflection 
on her forehead and cheeks, she is a giantess. A 
butterfly precedes us on our path and ahghts under 
our eyes, but when we come up, it takes wing again 
and comes down a Uttle farther, and begins all over 
again ; and we smile at the butterfly that thinks 
of us. 

Inlaid with gold by the slanting sun we lead each 
other hand in hand as far as the statue of Flora, 
which once upon a time a lord of the manor raised 
on the fringe of the wood. Against the abiding back- 
ground of distant heights the goddess stands half- 
naked in the beautiful ripe light. Her fair hips are 
draped with a veil of still whiter stone, Uke a hnen 
garment. Before the old moss-mellowed pedestal I 
pressed Marie desperately to my heart. Then, in 
the sacred sohtude of the wood, I put my hands 
upon her, and so that she might be hke the goddess, 
I unfastened her black bodice, lowered the ribbon 
shoulder-straps of her chemise, and laid bare her 
wide and rounded bosom. 
She yielded to the adoration, with lowered head 



MARIE 



51 



and her eyes magnificently troubled, red-flushing 
with blood and sunshine. 

I put my lips on hers. Until that day, whenever 
I kissed her, her lips submitted. This time she gave 
me back my long caress, and even her eyes closed 
upon it. Then she stands there with her hands 
crossed on her glorious throat, her red wet lips ajar ; 
she stands there, apart yet united to me, and her 
heart on her lips. 

She has covered her bosom again. The breeze is 
suddenly gusty. The apple trees in the orchards 
are shaken, and scatter birdlike jetsam in space ; 
and in that bright green paddock yonder, the rows 
of out-hung linen dance in the sunshine. The sky 
darkens ; the wind rises and prevails. It was that 
very day of the gale. It assaults our two bodies on 
the flank of the hill. It comes out of infinity and 
sets roaring the tawny forest foliage— we can see its 
agitation behind the black grille of the trunks. It 
makes us dizzy to watch the swift displacement of 
the grey-veiled sky ; and from cloud to cloud a bird 
seems hurled like a stone. We go down towards the 
bottom of the valley, chnging to the slope, an offer- 
ing to the deepest breath of heaven, driven forward 
yet holding each other back. 

So, gorged with the gale and deafened by the uni- 
versal concert of space that goes through our ears, we 
find sanctuary on the river-bank. The water flows 
between trees whose highest foUage is intermingled. 
By a dark footpath, soft and damp, under the ogive 
of the branches, we follow this crystal-paved cloister 
of green shadow. We come on a flat-bottomed boat, 
used by the anglers. I make Marie enter it. and it 
yields and groans under her weight. By the strokes 
of two old oars we descend the current. 

It seems to our hearts and our inventing eyes that 
the banks take flight on either side— it is the scenery 
of bushes and trees which retreats. We— we abide I 



'•ij 



ii 



fi 



m 

til 

Mil 



Sa 



L I (1 H T 



But the boat grounds among tall reeds. Marie is 
half reclining, and d(X!s not speak. I draw myself 
towards her on my knees, and the boat quixers as I 
do. Her face in silence calls me ; she calls me 
wholly. With her prostrate body, surrendered and 
disordered, she calls me. 

I possess her— she is mine. In sublime docihty 
she yields to my violent caress. Now, she is mine— 
mine for ever ! Henceforth let what may befall ; 
Jet the years go by and the winters follow the sum- 
mers, she is mine, and my Hfe is granted me! 
Proudly I think of the great and famous lovers 
whom we resemble. I perceive that there is no 
recognised law which can stand against the might 
of love. And under the transient wing of the foliage, 
amid the continuous recessional of heaven and earth 
we repeat " Never " ; we repeat " Always," and we 
proclaim it to eternity. 

« . I : . 

The leaves are falling, the year draws near to its 
end. The wedding is arranged to take place about 
Christmas. 

That decision was mine ; Mane said " Yes," as 
usual; and her father, absorbed all the day in 
figures, would emerge from them at night like a 
shipwrecked man. seeing darkly, passive, except on 
rare occasions when he had fits of mad obstinacy, 
and no one knew why. 

In the early morning sometimes, when I was 
climbing Chestnut Hill on my way to work, Marie 
would appear before me at a comer, in the pale and 
blushing dawn. We would walk on together, bathed 
in those fresh fires, and would watch the town at 
our feet rising again from its ashes. Or on my way 
back, she would suddenly be there, and we would 
walk side by side towards her home. We loved 
each other too much to be able to talk. A very few 



MARIE 



53 



words we exchanged just to entwine our voices • and 
in speaking of other people we smiled at each other 

One day about that time. Monsieur the Marquis 
of Monthyon had the kindly thought of asking us 
both to an evening party at the castle, with several 
leadmg people of our quarter. VVlicn all the guests 
were gathered in a huge gallery, adorned with busts 
which sat in state between high curtains of red 
damask, the marquis took it into his head to cut off 
the electncity-in a lordly way he Uked heavy 
practical jokes. I was just smiling at Marie who 
was standing near me in the middle of the crowded 
gallery, when suddenly it was dark. I put out mv 
arms and drew her to me. She responded with a 
spirit she had not shown before, our lips met more 
passionately than ever, and our single body swayed 
amorig the invisible ejaculating throng that elbowed 
and jostled us. The light flashed again. We had 
loosed our hold. Ah. it was not Marie whom I had 
clasped ! The woman fled with a stifled exclamation 
of shame and indignation towards him who she 
believed had embraced her, and who had seen 
nothing. Confused, and as though still bhnd I 
rejoined Marie, but I was myself again w^**- ^li'flfi. 
culty. In spite of aU. that kiss which haa -.uaaenly 
brought me in naked contact with a omplete 
stranger remained to me an extraordinaiv and 
infernal delight. Afterwards. I thought I recdtnised 
the woman by her blue dress, half-seen at the iame 
time as the gleam of her neck after that brief and 
dazzhng incident. But there were three of them 
somewhat aUke. I never knew which of those un- 
known women concealed within her flesh the half 
of the thrill that I could not shake off all the evening. 

There was a large gathering at the wedding. The 
Marquis and Marchioness of Monthyon appeared at 



A if. 



I i 



54 



LIGHT 



the sacristy. Brisbillc, by good luck, stayed away : 
good sectarian that he was, he only acknowledged 
civil marriages. I was a little shamefaced to see 
march past, taking their share of the fine and tran- 
quil smile distributed by Marie, -^ome women who 
had fonnerly l>een my mistresses — Madame I acaille, 
nervous, subtle, mystical ; big Victorine and her 
good-natured rotundity, who had welcomed me any 
time and anywhere ; and Madeleine Chaine, and 
slender Antonia above all. with the ItaHan woman's 
ardent and theatrical face, ebony-framed, and wear- 
ing a hat of Parisian splendour. For Antonia is very 
elegant since she married V(^ron. I could not help 
wincing when I saw that lanky woman, who had 
clung to me in venturesome rooms, now assiduous 
around us in her ceremonious attire. But how far- 
off and obliterated all that was ! 



CHAPTER V 



DAY BY DAY 

We rearranged the house. We did not alter the 
general arrangement, nor the places of the heavy 
furniture — that would have been too great a change. 
But we cast out all the dusty old stuff, the fossilised 
and worthless knick-knac.s that Mame had accumu- 
lated. The photographs on the walls, which were 
dying of jaund; and debility and which no longer 
stood for anybody, because of the greatness of time, 
we cleared out of their imitation tortoise shell and 
buried in the depths of drawers. 

I bought some furniture, and as we sniffed the 
odour of varnish which hung about for a long time 
in the lower room, we said, " This is the real thing." 



DAY BY DAY 



35 



And indeed our home was pretty much like the 
middle-claw establishments of our quarter and 
everywhere. Is it not the only really pr.md moment 
here on earth when we ran say " I too I " 

Years went by. There was nothing remarkable 
in our life. When I came home in the evening, Marie 
—who often had not been out and had kept on her 
dressing-gown and plaits— u*cd to say. "There's 
been nothing to speak of to-day." 

The aeroplanes were api)earing at that time. We 
talked about them, and saw photographs of them in 
the papers. One Sunday we saw one, from our 
wmdow. We had heard the choppcd-up noise of 
its engine expanding over the sky ; and down below, 
the townsfolk on their doorsteps raised their heads 
towards the ceiUng of their streets. Rattling space 
was marked with a dot. We kept our eyes on it 
and saw the great flat and noisy insect grow bigger 
and bigger, silhouetting the black of its angles and 
partitioned lines against the airy wadding of the 
clouds, \yhen the headlong flight had passed, when 
it had dwindled in our eyes and cars amid the new 
world of sounds which it drew in its train, Marie 
sighed dreamily : 

" I would like," she said. " to go up in an aero- 
p'me, into the wind— into the sky I " 

One spring we talked a lot about a trip we would 
take some day. Some rail\\ay posters had been 
stuck on the walls of the old tin works— that the 
Pocard scheme was going to transfigure. We looked 
at them the day they were freshly brilliant in their 
wet varnish and their smell of paste. We preferred 
the bill about Corsica, which showed seaside land- 
scapes, harbours, with picturesque people in the 
foreground and a purple mountain behind, all among 
garlands. And later, even when stiffened and torn 
and crackin^^ in the wind, that poster attracted us. 

One evening, in the kitchen, when we had just 



5» LIGHT 

come in— Uicrc uf nemoriM which mvitcriouily 
outlive the rest— in. i Marie was lighting the fire 
with her hat v ai her hands wiped out in the 
twihght by .> !LM> .f the coal, she said, " We'll 
make that tn,i intt ' 

Sometime* i{ I, >r i"r d that we went o\it, she and 
I. during the w ck. . 'loktd about me and shared 



my thoughts vi 
would listen to 
rEgli<«e, whicli 
ago. we often t 
Trompson. near 



I h. r Nc'**- • '^ry talkative, she 

"I ^ut of the Place de 

'i . i' ., u«* so much not long 

cU i< 1. '.' .-an and denevic^ve 

'ic su V Jit where an old jam- 

-r>body used to say of 



pot lies on the j umnu. i ^ ^ 

these two, "They'll separate, you'll "sec; that^s 
what romes of loving each other too much. It was 
madr.oss ; I always said so." And hearing these 
things, unfortunately true. Marie would murmur 
^"ith a son of obstinate gentleness, " Love is 
sacred." 

Returning, not far from the anachronistic and 
clandestine Fiido's lair, we used to hear the coughing 

f^r^^' ^^^^ "'^ *''*"^' ^'®™ threadbare and of a 
laded green hue, never ceased to imitate the fits of 
coughmg which two years before had torn Adolphc 
Plot s hmgs. who died in the midst of his family 
under such sad circumstances. Those days we would 
return with our cars full of the obstinate clamour 
of that recording bird, which had set itself fiercely 
to immortali>e the noise that passed for a moment 
through the world and toss the echoes of an ancient 
calamity of which everybody had ceased to think 

Almost the only people about us are Marthe, my 
httle sister-m-law. who is six years old, and resembles 
her sister hke a surprising miniature ; my father-in- 
law who is gradually annihilating himself; and 
CnUon. This last Hves always contented in the 
same shop while time goes bv. like his father and 
ius grandfather and the cobbler of the fable, his 



DAY BY DAY 



57 



elernal iiwetlor. Under hiii square cap, on the cdRc 
of hi» gUfcd niche. \w sohUK|uisc», wliilc he smoket 
I the short and juicy pipe wWch joins him in talking 

and spitting- indeed, he jw^ms to be answering it 
A lonely toiler, his lot in increasingly hard, and almost 
worthleiis. fie often c ants in to us to do little job* 
- mend a table 1*^, reseat a chair, replace a tUe. 
Then he says ; 

" There's stin^at I must tell you " 

So ho retails the gossip of the district, for it is 
against hin conscience, as he frankly avows, to 
conceal what he knowh. And Heaven knows tliere 
IS gosMp enough in our quarter I— a complete net- 
work, above and below, of quarrels, intrigues, and 
deceptions, woven ar*>und man. woman, and the 
public in general. Ono says. " It can't be true ! " 
and then thinks about something else. 

And Crillon, in face of all this perversity, all this 
wrong doing, smiles ! I like to see that happy smile 
of innocence on the lo«vly worker's face. He is 
better than I, and he even understands hfe better, 
with his unfailing gotxl sense. 

I say to him, " But are there not any bad custom§ 
and vices ? Alcoholism, for instance ? " 

" Yes," says Crillon, " as long as you don't ex- 
arrergate it. I don't like cxarrergations, and I find 
as much of it among the pcstimists as among the 
opticians. Drink, you say ! It's chiefly that folks 
haven't enough charitableness, mind you. They 
blame all these poor devils that drink and they 
think themselves clever ! And they're envious, 
too ; if they wasn't that, tell me, would they stand 
there in stony pcterified silence before the under- 
hand goings-on of bigger folks ? That's what it is, 
at bottom of us. Let me tell you, now. I'll say 
nothing against Termite, though he's a poacher, 
and for th*' castle folks that's worse than all, but if 
yon bandit of a Brisbille weren't the anarchist he is 



58 



LIGHT 



and frightening everybody I'd excuse him his dirty 
nose and even not taking it out of a pint pot all the 
week through. It isn't a crime, isn't only being a 
good boozer. We've got to look ahead and have a 
broad spirit, as Monsieur Joseph says. Tolerantness ! 
We all want it, eh ? " 
" You're a good sort," I say. 

"I'm a man like everybody," proudly replies 
Crillon ; "it's not that I hold by accustomary ideas ; 
I'm not an antiquitary, but I don't like to single- 
arise myself. If I'm a botcher in life, it's cos I'm 
the same as others— no less," he says, straightening 
up. And standing still more erect he adds, " Nor 
no more, neither ! " 

When we are not chatting, we read aloud. There 
is a very fine library at the factory, selected by 
Madame Valentine Gozlan from works of an educa- 
tional or moral kind, for the use of the staff. Marie, 
whose imagination goes farther afield than mine 
and who has not my anxieties, directs the reading. 
She opens a book and reads aloud while I take my 
ease, looking at the pastel portrait which hangs just 
opposite the window. On the glass which entombs 
the picture I see the gently moving and puffing 
reflection of the fidgety window curtains, and the 
face of that glazed portrait becomes blurred with 
broken streaks and all kinds of wave-marks. 

" Ah, these adventures ! " Marie sometimes sighs, 
at the end of ^ chapter ; " these things that never 
happen ! " 

" Thank Heaven ! " I cry. 

" Alas ! " she repUes. 

Even when people l^ve together they differ more 
than they think ! 

At other times, Marie reads to herself, quite 
silently. I surprise her absorbed in this occupation. 
It even happens that she applies herself thus to 
poetry. In her set and stooping face her eyes come 



DAY BY DAY 



59 



and go over the abbreviated lines of the verses 
l;rom time to time she raises them and looks up at 
the sky and-vastly farther than the visible sky- 
at all that escapes from the little cage of words 
And sometimes we are lightly touched with 



One evening. Marie informed me that the canary 
was dead ; and she began to cry as she showed me 
the open cage and the bird, which lay at the bottom 
with Its feet curled up. as rumpled and stark as the 
httle yellow plaything of a doll. I sympathised with 
her sorrow ; but her tears were endless, and I found 
her emotion disproportionate. " Come now." I 
said after all, a bird's only a bird, a mere point 
that moved a httle in a comer of the room. What 
then ? What about the tl msands of birds that die 
and the people that die. and the poor ?" But she 
shook her head, insisted on grieving, tried to prove 
to me that it was momentous, and that she was 
nght. 

For a moment I stood bewildered by this want of 
understanding, this difference between her way of 
feeling and mine. It was a disagreeable revelation 
of the unknown. One might often, in regard to small 
matters, make a multitude of reflections if one 
wished. But one does n6t wish. 



My position at the factory and in our quarter is 
becoming gradually stronger. By reason of a regular 
gratuity which I received, we are at last able to put 
money aside each month, like everybody. 

" I say ! " cried Crillon. pulling me outside with 
him as I was coming in one evening, " I must let 
you laiow that you've been spoken of spontanially 
for the Town Council at the next renewment 



i I 



I 

iii 



; ; 
If ' 

, ! 



I; 



'lilt" 

a: if 



6o 



LIGHT 



They're making a big effort, you know. Monsieur 
the Marquis is going to stand for the legislative 
elections ; but we've walked into the other quarter," 
said Crillon, stopping dead. " Come back, come 
back." 

We turned right-about-face. 

" This patriotic society of Monsieur Joseph," 
Crillon went on, " has done a lot of harm to the 
anarchists. We've all got to let 'em feel our elbows, 
that's necessential. You've got a foot in the factory, 
eh ? You see the >vorkmen, have a crack of talk 
with 'em. You ingreasiate yourself with 'em, so's 
some of 'em'U vote for you. For them's the danger." 

" It's true that I am very sympathetic to them," 
I murmured, impressed by this prospect. 

Crillon came to a stand in front of the Public 
Baths : 

" It's the seventeenth to-day," he explained, 
" the day of the month when I takes a bath. Oh, 
yes ! I know that you go every Thursday. But 
I'm not of that mind. You're young, of course, 
and p'raps you have good reason ! But you take 
my tip and hob-nob with the working-man. We 
must bestir ourselves and impel ourselves, what the 
devil ! As for me, I've finished my political efforts 
for peace and order. It's your turn ! " 

He is right. Looking at the ageing man I notice 
that his framework is slightly bowed, that his ill- 
shaven cheeks are hump-backed, with little ends of 
hair turning into white crystals. In his lowly sphere 
he has done his duty. I reflect upon the mite-like 
efforts of the unimportant people, of the moun- 
tains of tasks performed by anonjnnity. They are 
necessary, these hosts of people so closely resembling 
each other ; for cities are built upon the poor 
brotherhood of paving-stones. 

He is right, as always. I, who am still young, I, 
who am on a higher level than Ms, I must play a 



A VOICE IN THE EVENING 6i 

«,v u^^i^^ movement of will appears in mv life 
which otherwise proceeds as usual ^ ' 



CHAPTER VI 

A VOICE IN THE EVENING 

sympathy The toiler's lot. moreover, raises inter- 
stanl ^Q^^l'"''; ^^^'^ °"^ ^^°"^d «eek to under- 
around me. ""^'"^^ ^" '^' "^""^^ °^ *^°^^ 

am'^^L"" M* ^° "^^ *^^ «^^^'^^^' wo^^ ? Here I 
am, said Marcassin, sumamed P^rolus. "I'm 

thelampman. Before that. I was a greaser Isth^ 

fcSic^t'^ M"'\'"y- It'« here th^t that gi'es on 
ook-there. My place you'll find at night by letting 
your nose guide you." ^ iciung 

whT!? i??" i' *^^* *^^ ^°™^^ °f the factory to 
wh.ch he leads me has an aggressive smpll Thl 

shapeless walls of this sort of grft^oTe'ado^^ed vSh 
shelves fuU of leaking lamps, lamps dirty as beasts 

hin' ^""'^H '!t''%^'' ^^^ ^'^'' ^"d otherlparted 
things At the foot of a wooden cupboard wSch 

ooks hke iron are lamp-glasses in paper shirts 7^d 
farther away, groups of oil-drums. AU is dilapidated 
and rmnous. all is dark in this angle of the Seat 
bmlding where light is elaborated. The spectS of 
a huge window stands yonder. The panes Snly h^ 
appear ; so encrusted are they, they might be 

Tk^Mhe^^^r ^'^'- JheVat'sto'netlth: 
H^rTT^* ^ ^^f ^'^ upholstered with a dark 
deposit of grease, hke the bottom of a stew-pan. and 



Ji' 



l1] 

I! 



■4 



J .il 



jM 



63 



LIGHT 



nests of dust hang from them. Black puddles gleam 
on the flcKjr, \vith beds of slime from the scraping of 
the lamps. 

There he lives and moves, in his armoured tunic, 
encrusted with filth as dark as coffee-grounds. In 
his poor claw he grips the chief implement of his 
work— a black rag. His grimy hands shine with 
parafl&n ; and the oil sunk and blackened in his 
nails gives them a look of wick-ends. All day long 
he cleans lamps, and repairs and unscrews and fills 
and wipes them. The dirt and darkness of this 
population of appliances he attracts to himself, and 
he works like a nigger. 

" For it's got to be well done," he says, " and even 
when you're fagged out, you must keep on rubbing 
hard." 

" There's six hundred and sixty-three, monsieur " 
— he says " monsieur " as soon as he embarks on 
technical explanations — " counting the smart ones 
in the fine offices and the lanterns in the wood-yard 
and the night watchmen. You'll say to me, ' Why 
don't they have electricity that lif hts itself ? ' It's 
cos that costs money and they get paraffin for next 
to nothing, it seems, through a big firm 'at they're in 
with up yonder. As for me, I'm always on my legs, 
from the morning when I'm tired through sleeping 
badly, from after dinner when you feel sick with 
eating, up to the evening, when you're sick of every- 
thing." 

The bell ha.s rung, and we go away in company. 
He has pulled off his blue trousers and tunic, and 
thrown them into a comer — two objects which have 
grown heavy and rusty, like tools. But the dirty 
shell of his toil did upholster him a little, and he 
emerges from it gaunter, and horribly squeezed 
within the littleness of a torturing jacket. His bony 
legs, in trousers too wide and too short, break off at 
the bottom in long and mournful shoes, with hillocks. 



and J "^ """^ EVENING 63 

trotting slowlv and ^, ? n ""'' *'">™ I see 

with dark chimneys and c?anes ^tTi ^^i^* ^1''^'' 
planted black and vertiS fn' ^l >'^'*^'' °^ ^^^'^ 
vaguely scribbled wilhjp^l? nakedness, a plain 
cinder paths-a nl^^n nfr^^*"*^*^ lines-raUs and 
places aCt^e±LT.ffy^*^""^"- ^^ ^^^ne 
of clinker and cinffi«t! k° *^5 ^^'*°'>'' ^^^t^o^ds 
of it continues to bum il! ''" ^T^^' ^^^^ ^ome 
flames and Irker '^urtlT^^^^ 
clouds vomited by the t^chimn'^^''' *^" ^^^^ 
in broad mountains wh^^^^- *'°"'^ *°«^®*^^^ 
ground and cover tLtn^v^r^^'^r^ ^"^'^ '^' 
the depths of these cloud, ^ ^ ."^^ "^y- '" 
The immense exwn^ of %, "'^'"*'' ^' ^^* ^°ose. 
and rolls in the s^e?ou/se XhT^t \"^ ^^^"*» 

An inexhaustible echo of r^pl^^*" *^^ '"^"^^• 
is hke hell in PT.f,S.° "f^ surrounds us. It 
horizons ''"P*^^" ^"^ begirt by bronze 

b4s\l"e?ir;JClett^^^^ It 

which surpasses L^hreaten u, 5' .f^^tWng 
me that he who is not S if n ' ^""^ '* ^^"^^ to 
underfoot. "^^^ '^ """^ °"e day be trodden 

ing animal, hop&^g^^ S^f SCesl^S?; 



. ''a 



I 



■ft 



1:1 



64 



LIGHT 



because of his name* or his stench, I don't know. 
The evening is darkening ; the wind is tearing leaves 
away ; it thickens with rain, and begins to nip. 

My miserable companion's voice comes to me in 
shreds. He is trying to explain to me the law of 
unremitted toil. The end of his murmur reaches 
my face : 

" and that's what one hasn't the least idea of. 

Because what's nearest to us, often, one doesn't see 
it." 

" Yes, that's true," I say, rather weary of his 
monotonous complaining. 

I try a few words of consolation, knowing that he 
was recently married : 

" After all, no one comes bothering you in your 
own little comer. There's always that. And then, 
after all, you're going home— your wife is waiting 
for you. You're lucky " 

" I've no time ; or rather, I've no strength. All 
nights, when I come home, I'm too tired— I'm too 
tired, you understand, to be happy, you see. Every 
morning I think I shall be, and I'm hoping up till 
noon, but at night I'm too knocked out, what with 
walking and rubbing for eleven hours, and on Sun- 
days I'm done in altogether with the week. There's 
even times that I don't even wash myself when I 
come in. I just stay with my hands mucky, and on 
Sundays when I'm cleaned up, it's a nasty one when 
they say to me, ' You're looking well.' " 

And while I am listening to the tragi-comical 
recital which he retails like a soliloquy without 
expecting replies from me— luckily, for I should not 
know how to answer — I can in fact recall those 
holidays when the face of P^trolus is embellished by 
the visible marks of water. 

'' Apart from that," he goes on, withdrawing his 
chin into the grey string of his over-large collar, 
» Mareassiii — a young wild boar.— Tr. 



• air'? "^ "^ EVENING 65 

thai Ught, „«; lamp • a„j''!h5°??;' •"<• «'• her 
carefully away twm^^ ^f, t'J'^" *« '>«>'» 
my fingers make prin" o^'. ' .^ * «Tea« •««, and 
good, but it doesn ""urn out^^M *="■"'"»'»• She's 
you, and when one'. ,,^, '"• "">« «> I've told 
able to being uohapp;"^"PPy• '^eo^hing', /.vour- 

co„"du^<:'ro'au h: ht"^ra''nd'r '^u "y -y »' 

«y •■ ■■ My father he «^ii"V«°,f" '^at one can 

multitude : "* '^'"«» "Wch ma]c« the 

?.erI'Tho2'h"iiJ:'«tcfan """ *"" *«>»• 
keep going on thaTnoUon X~'^''?'^"«- ^^ 
dnnk and want to drink ^dw J? " " 'J"^ *•>«« 
^ I hardly listen tXmVA^,'^^* ''^y" 
the grievances of the SffeiSvTLi "Pj""' '» "»• 

^ ■• The moulders, mon"^"th^"^-f' ""'™'» ^ 
the gangs—" "'""^eur, them, it s a matter of 

faio^.T;::"]lirs?'^,^;''« population of the 
that these toUers^e rf>^. '. " """«' *» me 
the detachS Sid to^Sif"^' 1 "^^ '"m 

.fi^>^s.i£ScHJ?^«-. 

tel^^thl^ran--'^-"^ 
He is in .o„t l-?* fanTIS ^L^^itt ^^^ 



P^ 



66 



LIGHT 



by a valve which draws in water from the saturated 
ground. 

*' Tlie unions, monsieur " he cries to me in 

the wind, " why, it's dangerous to point at them. 
You haven't the right to think any more — that's 
what they call liberty. If you're in them, you've 
got to be agin the parsons (I'm willing, but what's 
that got to do with labour ?) — and there's some- 
thing more serious," the lampman adds in a sud- 
denly changed voice, " you've got to be agin the 
Army — the Army I " 

And now the poor slave of the lamp seems to 
take a resolution. He stops, and devotionally 
rolling his Don Quixote eyes in his gloomy, emaci- 
ated face, he says : 

" I'm always thinking about something. What ? 
— you'll say. Well, here it is ; I belong to the 
League of Patriots." 

As they brighten still more, his eyes are like two 
live embers in the darkness. 

"D^roulMe!" he cries; " that's the man— he's 
my God." 

P^trolus raises his voice and gesticulates, he 
makes great movements in the night at the vision 
of his idol — to whom his leanness and his long 
elastic arms give him some resemblance : 

" He's for war, he's for Alsace-Lorraine, that's 
what he's for ; and above all, he's for nothing else. 
Ah, that's all there is to it ! The Boches have got 
to disappear off the earth, else it'll be us. Ah, 
when they talk politics to me, I ask 'em. Are you 
for D^roulMe, yes or no ? That's enough. I got 
my schooling iny old how, and I know next to 
nothing, but I reckon it's grand only to think Uke 
that, and in the Reserves I'm adjutant' — almost an 
officer, monsieur, just a lampman as I am." 

*■ A non-com., approximately equivalent to regimental 
»efgeant-major.— Tr, 






A SUMMARY j. 

had the .tae .'„ ?L!fkt;;;i,''itufVcse''';;x„r" 

A iji^fe' "" " '""^'""K ^"d noble '^'~ 

espies afaXoKinfJ?.''"''' "' P^'™'"' " he 
on the CTeft d=v ^ '"'"*• *"'' he cries that 

accounts*^o settle anTt^ 1?"° **" >« «>me 
ideal-beare?c^s and?.H„ '"i'!' ''"■"'"' »' 'his 

length of [he^L ""He islw nr"' "'""iS ""= 
poor black bantam ^1!, "° '"°''« 'han a 

He shuffles along, bows iS tag^?nj f^bklTn"?: 

amoa'^hcsTe'reh „t, 'T^"' «"-'tX"he 
M^caSawits*^ ' '"' ''°'"*- *>■"' M""**"' 



.! 



li 






CHAPTER VII 

A SUMMARY 

towardsS!«'Cyf tdSr """k'™" ^^a"' 
intentions have^ZduaJiy'^t' t^^'' ""' ""^ 8<-J 

my^e AnS'^;<^""'''y "i""^" have occupied 
'y me. Antonia V&on was 6rst. Her marriage 



hi 



68 



LIGHT 



and mine, thdr hindrance and restriction, threw 
us back upon each other as of yore. We found 
ourselves alone one day in my house— where nothing 
ever used to happen— and she offered me her lip^^. 
inesistibly. The appeal of her sensuality was 
answered by mine, then and often later But the 
pleasure constantly restored which impelled me 
towards her always ended in dismal enlightenments. 
She remained a capricious and baffling egotist, and 
when I came away from her house across the dark 
suburb among a host of being* vanishing like 
myself, I only brought away the memory of her 
nervous and irritating laugh, and that new wrinkle 
which clung to her mouth like an implement. 

Then younger desires destroyed the old, and gal- 
lant adventures begot one another. It is all over 
with this one and that one whom I adored. When 
I see them again I wonder that I can say, at one 
and the same time, of a being who has not changed, 
" How I loved her ! " and " How I have ceased to 
love her ! " 

All the while performing as a duty my daily 
task, all the while taking suitable precautions, so 
that Marie may not know and may not suffer, I 
am looking for the happiness which lives. And 
truly, when I have a sense of some new assent 
wavering and making ready, or when I am on the 
way to a first rendezvous. I feel myself gloriously 
uplifted, and equal to everything ! But disillusion 
supervenes, and all must be begun again. 

This fills my life. Desire wears the brain as much 
as thought wears it, and love replaces all. All my 
being is agog for chances to shine and to be shared. 
When they say in my presence of some young 
woman that " She is not happy," a thrill of joy tears 
through me. 

On Sundays, among the crowds, I have often felt 
my heart tighten with distress as I watch the un- 



A Sl'MMAKY 



«9 



of he«lTvrbraUn„Tkr« L*"" "'S'^'^ '~"» <"«» 
the one I shouU have Jwa«Z I'l' ^l*"^.' "' '» 

acknowledge, .ha"! no onTt^''^- ^'" "o -"» 

«ve years, wiOi her blafk fiuir^tV' '"""'V 
profile, who still reJaimS .t !" ""'' ""^ "•"'•'le 

I «w some SLff ii™* Tpra^u'" n^T' ""^ 
hedge within her eanlen Tkl j r P"" **" STCcn 
ma^alled there wSe li J„„ ^ ''^J^v*'"" ">'->§> 
and the breeze sr.h J? "^' f "™* "'V ">« kaves 
and sweetS-and hfe T,^ ''"'v.'^" '™' ""ape 
house, scorch^*?„ Z' sun "'d""^'''"' « S»»»» 

ti^L"h^ -i tt'IrK-^^^^^^^^^ 

■i^hted up. '^-^-^^Tr^^^ 



f- 1 



I 



TO 



LIGHT 



waft enframed there, and I could dittinguith, leaning 
on the uU that overhung the town, in the heart of 
that reftplendcnre, a ftminine form which »tirred 
before my eves in inAcTcsHibic forbearance. Lung 
did I watch with shaking knees that window 
dawning upon space, at the !ihephcrd watches the 
rising of Venus. That evening, when I had come 
in and was alone for a moment~>Mane was busy 
below in the kitchen— alone in our unattracting 
room, I retired to the starry window, beset by 
immense thoughts. These spaces, these separa- 
tions, these incalculable durations— they all reduce 
us to dust, they all have a sort of fearful splendour 
'rom which we seek defence in our liiding. 



I have not retained a definite recollection of a 

reriod of jealousy from which I suffered for a year, 
rom certain facts, certain profound changes of 
mood in Marie, it seemed to me that there was some 
one between her and me. But beyond vague 
symptoms and these terrible reflections on her, I 
never knew anything. The truth, everywhere 
around me, was only a phantom of truth. I ex- 
perienced acute internal wounds — of humiliation, of 
shame, of rebellion ! I struggled feebly, as well as 
I could, against a mystery too great for me, and 
then my suspicions wore themselves out. I fled 
from the nightmare, and by a strong effort I forgot 
it. Perhaps my imputations had no basis ; but it 
is curious how one ends in only believing what 
one wants to believe 



Something which had been plotting a long while 
among the Socialist extremists suddenly produced 
a stoppage of woi!: at the factory, and this was 
followed by demonstrations which rolled through the 



A SUMMARY 



71 



terriAed town. Evcrywhcrf the thuttm went up. 
The buftineM people blotted out their thorn, and 
the town looked hke a tragic Sunday. 

•' It't a revolution I " said Marie to me, turning 
pale as Bcnolt cried to us from the step of our 
porch the news that the workmen w<'re marclung • 
" how docH it come about that you Knew nottiina 
at the factory ? " * 

An hour later, we learned that .4 delegation com- 
posed of the most dangerous ringl. aders was pre- 
ceding the army of demon tia tors, commisstoned 
to extort outrageous advantages, uiUi threats, from 
Messrs. GozUui. 

Our quarter had a loot,c and d?i cted look. 
People went furtively, seeking lu•\^ anc (Uxm 
half oocned regretfully. Here and ilure groupi> 
formed, and lamented in undertones the pubUc 
authority's lack of foresight, the insufhcient 
measures for preserving order. 

Rumours were peddled about on the progress 
of the demonstration. 

'' They're crossing the river." 

" They're at the Calvary cross-roads." 

" It's a march against the castle ! " 

I went into Fontan's. He was not there, and 
some men were talking in the twilight of the closed 
shutters. 

" The Baroness is in a dreadful way. She's seen 
a dark mass in the distance. Some young men 
of the aristocracy have armed themselves and are 
guarding her. She says it's another Jacquerie* 
rising I" ^ 

'' Ah. my God I What a mess I " said Crillon. 
It s the beginning of the end I" asserted old 
Daddy Ponce, shaking his greyish-yellow forehead, 
all plaited with wrinkles. 

> A terrible insurrection of the French peasantry, in 1385. 



til 



T* LIGHT 

Time went by—stm no news. What are they 
doing yonder ? What shall we hear next ? 

i« *K ^^i*' ^""^^^^^ th^'ee o'clock. Postaire is framed 

in the doorway, sweating and exultant • 

^^ It's over I It's all right, my lad ! " he gasps ; 

at the Gorlans' viUa. Messrs. Gozlan were there 
The delegates. I can vouch for it that they started 
shou ing and threatening, my lad I ' Never mind 
that I says one of the Messrs. Gozlan, ' let's have a 
dnnk first ; I'll vouch for it we'U talk better after I ' 
Tliere was a table, and champagne. I'll vouch for it. 
Tliey gave em it to dnnk. and then some more 
and then some more. I'll vouch for it they sent 
themselves sometliing down, my lad. into their 
waistcoats. I can vouch for it that the bottles of 

FnSfl"^ .^^T ^K ^'^^ °"* 0^ the gromid. 
Fontan kept always bringing them as though he 
was coming them. Got to admit it was an extra 
double-special guaranteed champagne, that you 
want to go cauti9us with. So then, after thfee- 

H^fl^"" ?l^ ^°"'"' "^^'^y *" *h^ deputation were 
drunk. They spun round, tongue-tied, and em- 
braced each other. I can vouch for it. There were 
some that stuck it. but they didn't count, my lad I 
The. others didn t even know what they'd come 
for— and the bosses, they'd had a fright and 
Ujey didn't half wriggle Ld roar witHaughSTJ^ 
1 11 vouch for It. my lad I An' then. to-m?^ow 

here ! " '"^ '*^ ^^^°' *^^'^'" ^ *^oops 

Joyful astonishment— the strike had been 

drowned m wme ! And we repeated to each other : 
^^ To-morrow there'U be the miUtary I " 

.V.C .! Tu ^.^^1 ^"P°"' ""^^"i^ wonder-struck 
eyes. That s clever ! Good, that's clever, that 

IS ! Good, old chap " 

He laughed a heavy vengeful laugh, and repeated 



A SUMMARY 73 

his familiar refrain fuU-throated-." tk- ., 
J«°P'^ 'hat can't stand on STs t~ le^* •?""""«" 
haf"a?eadf 1: '- '^^nt-hearted'ciiizens who 
political oDininn^ » '""raing, modified their 

^geSus "' *"" '''"'<' '^'^ ^d """ bV a sort 

~tion"ro^„"c^«;'^errL!irh^.,t 

wheXri;^l^ncl.''rthr'"P«0P'e3ay 

up some spngs of extra pay. There he stanH. ^tJ^ 
danng to enter the restaurant^fnr t ' ^P^ 

a%Tt's^-^,oJno'iS'?^S'iF-" 

Constantino^ fL "i society I And Mademo seUe 
v-onstantme the dressmaker, incurably Door anH 
worn a^ay by her sewing-machine s overi'oved 

tears . and m the greyish abiding half-mourning 



"'■'■ i 



74 



LIGHT 



of imperfect cleanliness, in pallid excitement she 
claps her hands. 

Marie and I can hear the furious desperate 
hammering of Brisbille in his forge, and we begin 
to laugh as we have not laughed for a long time. 

At night, before going to sleep, I recall my former 
democratic fancies. Thank God. I have escaped 
from a great peril. I can see it clearly by the terror 
which the workmen's menace spread in decent 
circles, and by the universal joy which greeted their 
recoil ! My deepest tendencies take hold of me again 
for good, and everything settles down as before. 



Much time has gone by. It is ten years now since 
I was married ; and in that lapse of time there is 
hardly a happening that I remember, unless it be 
the disillusion of the death of Marie's rich god- 
mother, who left us nothing. There was the failure 
of the Pocard scheme, which was only a swindle and 
ruined many small people. Politics pervaded the 
scandal, while certain people hurried with their 
money to Monsieur Boulaque, whose scheme was 
much more safe and substantial. There was also 
my father-in-law's iUness and his death, which was a 
great shock to Marie, and put us into black clothes. 

I have not changed. Marie has. somewhat. She 
has got stouter, her eyelids look tired and red, and 
she buries herself in silence. We are no longer 
quite in accord in details of onr life. She who 
once always said " Yes " is now primarily disposed 
to say " No." If I insist, she defends her opinion, 
obstinately, sourly, and sometimes dishonestly. 
For example, in the matter of pulling down the 
partition downstairs, if people had heard our high 
voices, they would have thought there was a 
quarrel. Following some of our discussions, she 
keeps her face contracted and spiteful, or assumes 



A SUMMARY 



7S 



MaSTi I ^"""""S "y """'"s to get jagged, 
picion about J^"' "^y, ''^2'°'^>'' nor evi/ Ss- 
rZ« ex ' "iL'^''?'^' ^dv«»"es. Her trust 

ebTl r,; n^^ ^""^ '* ""' ^'^ far-seeing, or 

eise 1 am nothing very much to her • and I ha v. 

&^ "^r" ^^' '°^ this indiSerenc^ ™ 

And now I see around me women who are ton 
young to ove me. That most positive of obstacl, 

fmoZs^''f:r'^''' '" -Parate'metmihe 
amorous. And yet I am not surfeited with love 

s'sfer in^W ^Tf y™"- ' M»nhe, r^y iitUe 
you're oldlL-^ri^, ""'.."."f ^y- "Now that 
L%t;^d a„^''rU;'^et'"c"trinfr ^ 

teU? nVt. i > ^"' **™"«' 'he first sad day which 
teUs us at midsummer that vinter will come 

saw M^rSt^ " I entered the room, I Snctly 
f^Z^^'l}^.^^ """'"e by the window. As 
fr,f^.l f'"' «"' "P-" was Marthe I The lieht 
from the sky, pale as a dawn, had blenched the 
young girl's golden hair and turned the trt^e of 
a smUe on her cheek into something like a wrinkle 

f^d^''' l^t P'^y "' **>« 'iSl't showed hTfa^ 
faded and her neck flabby: and because .h» w 
been yawning even her eyes were ™?e^' and f« 
some seconds the Uds wero sunk and reS^ed 



f^ LIGHT 

The resemblance of the two sisters tortured me. 
This little Marthe, with her luxurious and appe- 
tising colour, her warm pink cheeks and moist lips, 
this plump adolescent whose short skirt shows her 
curving calves, is an affecting picture of what 
Marie was. It is a sort of terrible revelation. In 
truth Marthe resembles, more than the Marie of 
to-day does, the Marie whom I formerly loved, the 
Marie who came out of the unknown, whom I saw 
one evening sitting on the rose-tree seat, shining, 
silent, in the presence of love. 

It required a great effort on my part not to try, 
weakly and vainly, to approach Marthe— the im- 
possible dream, the dream of dreams ! She has a 
little love affair with a youngster hardly moulted 
into adolescence, and rather absurd, whom one 
catches sight of now and again as he sUps away 
from her side ; and that day when she sang so much 
in spite of herself, it was because a httle rival was 
ill. I am as much a stranger to her girlish growing 
triumph and to her thoughts as if I were her enemy ! 
One morning when she was capering and laughing, 
flower-crowned, at the doorstep, she looked to me 
like a being from another world. 



One winter's day, when Marie had gone out and 
I was arranging my papers, I found a letter I had 
written not long before but had not posted, and I 
threw the useless document on the fire. When 
Marie came back in the evening, she settled in 
front of the fire to dry h«rself and to revive it 
for the room's twilight ; and the letter, which had 
been only in part consumed, took fire again. And 
suddenly there glared in the night a shred of paper 
with a shred of my writing — " / love you as much 
as you love me ! " 

And it was so clear, the inscription that flamed 



A SUMMARY 77 






happy as they who b^T^H^^ZZZ 

and women's beauty Se toolhort UvM "in' 'Z 
ttev ex.:?. ^f; '''V?°i °"'y '""^by 'hat we and 

smce it is alwa>-s punisi.ed sS™i" ir l'ter"rT' 
whe™li::S"'uJ'^ "' ' pitiful loT; 'an'; evU 

mediocrity. Fate's face is grey "'"'« 

lished Tt'i»^*> "y P'"^""^ portion has estab- 
lished Itself and progressively improved ill 
getting three hundred and sixtv fEm^ ? 

and besides, I have a SaretaVe profits Tt he' 
htigation office-about fifty francs a month r,^ 



^- ^:^' 



7« LIGHT 

I have restored my political plans, but this time 
I have a rational and normal policy in view. I am 
nominated to succeed Crillon in the Town Council. 
There, no doubt, I shall arrive sooner or later. 
I continue to become a personality by the force of 
circumstances, without my noticing it, and without 
any real interest in me on the part of those around 
me. 

Quite a piece of my life has now gone by. When 
sometimes I think of that, I am surprised at the 
length of the time elapsed, at the number of the 
days and the years that are dead. It has come 
quickly, and without much change in myself on 
the other hand j and I turn away from that vision 
at once real and supernatural. And yet, in spite 
of myself, my future appears before my eyes — and 
its end. My future will resemble my past ; it does 
so already. I can dimly see all my life, from one 
end to the other, all that I am, all that I shall have 
been. 



CHAPTER VIII 



THE BRAWLER 

At the time of the great military manoeuvres of 
September, 1913, Viviers was an important centre 
of the operations. All the district was brightened 
with a swarming of red and blue, and with martial 
ardour. 

Alone and systematically, Brisbille was the reviler. 
From the top of Chestnut Hill, where we were watch- 
ing a strategical display, he pointed at the military 
mass : 

" Manoeuvres do they call them ? I could die of 
laughing ! The red-caps have dug trenches and the 



THE BRAWLER ~ 

atirt'h^'wTofficr J'J^"' > "? Main. Take 
left." "*"• *"'' yo"™ only kids' games 

the Rts'^^f"™""" '"""O ^i'h a colleague about 

th;y've',or^TrU^!^^. ''^''''-" ^ "-"- 
He's a simpleton," said the ioumalist smiling 
The mebnate jumped astride 4 hobby ho^^' 
look r^t .".K*"' "■* »" lunacy ! ^And look 

mts";t^'''A'rmut^rr" ""' y°" '-^ 

to be kiUc'd thatThTdon't d"rif ■erfn'jl'"'?'" 
of nothing at aU I " " '" **"= colour 

" What'rrh""' ""''P !""'^S in here : 

woSd never conin. I ^^""^ '^'if '°' "• They 
"E»aHi",-j They would rebel." 

all tK up^r coSi°ons7 "a" J"^' '^^ *°'"<' 
red trousers^are^n^tTSng „„''e".1^y *??:''>' 
were as visible as aU that thrHi^hV !■ they 

^'''^'havetob^re'to^/eLlj^r;^^' """■ "' 
And Bnsbille only uttered a shapeless reolv f„r 

seen. Among the generals and noblef shone an 



!-l 



f 



8o 



LIGHT 



Austrian prince of the blood royal, who bore one of 
the great names in the Almanacli Gotha, and who 
was officially in France to follow the military 
operations. 

The presence of the Baroness's semi-Imperial 
guest caused a great impression of historic glamour 
to hover over the country. His name was repeated. 
His ^yindows were pointed out in the middle of the 
principal front, and one thought himself lucky if he 
saw the curtains moving. Many families of poor 
people detached themselves from their quarters in 
the evenings to take up positions before the wall 
behind which he was. 
Marie and I, we were close to him twice. 
One evening, after dinner, we met him as one 
meets any passer-by among the rest. He was walk- 
ing alone, covered by a great grey waterproof. His 
felt hat was adorned with a short feather. He dis- 
played the characteristic features of his race— a long 
turned-down nose and a receding chin. 

When he had gone by, Marie and I said, both at 
the same time, and a httle dazzled, " An eagle I " 

We saw him again at the end of a stag-hunt. 
They had driven a stag into the Morteuil forest. 
The mort took place in a clearing in the park, near 
the outer wall. The Baroness, who always thought 
of the townsfolk, had ordered the little gate to be 
opened which gives into this part of the demesne, so 
that the public could be present at the spectacle. 

It was magisterial and pompous. The scene one 
entered, on leaving the sunny fields and passing 
through the gate, was a huge circle of dark foliage 
in the heart of the ancient forest. At first, one saw 
only the majestic summits of mountainous trees, 
like peaks and globes lost amid the heavens, which 
on all sides overhung the clearing and bathed it in 
twihght almost green. 
In this lordly solemnity of nature, down among 



THE BRAWLER |, 

pi.^tio„, Al^^^^^^^^^ anal 

thrust forward betw^n^J^'''''} u*"^ "^^ ^«™ 
him. One could mike out n. ^""^ '''?^***'" ^° ^ 
antlers, his irreat Xn., ? * '® ^^''^^ *^^c*^«t of his 
throb if Ws*heIr^^2f.A°"^^ *"^ ^^'^ enormous 
A little winded fawn^c'l*"!*",^ "'^i??"^*^ ^V- 
dantly. flovWnglke rspti^ *' ^^"^' ^^^"« -^ui 

sevtTctcles"Vh;i^^^^^^^^ ^-nged in 

red patch in the S"' '" :^"^ ^^^^ 
hunters, men and wS^en K atmosphere. Thi 
coats and black hauTow^,^'""?!:"*"^' ^" ^^»«t 
saddle and tackle hii^esst^^^^^^^^ ^P^^' ^^e 
leather and jingle of metal w"^*/" '''^'^"^^ °^ 
distance by a roue evJln^L u^-, *^ * respectful 

inquisitive crowdXweTandlnc^^^^^^ °" P°^^' *»»« 
The blood whicKued fmm^r?'^ every instant, 
a widening pool and one iw^K*^* 5"^^ '^^" '"^de 
who came toZ'k as ne"^. ni 'if ^'', °^ '^« hunt, 
habits so that they'wouM "otCadll^^^^Th^ ^'f 
of the great sta/rmcT,^^ u "*^'^"*nit. The sight 

droopini Ws brLcWn/ h.^^ T"""^'' S^^^uaUy 

howls of%he hounds thfchth^^^ ^^ '^' 

with difficulty, and that of th. rJfr"-'" ^"^^ ^^^^^ 
beside him and dvi„/Uh "^^ °."^' ^°^«""g 
have been touchinThad ^e ^f ^'"^ *^^°^*' ^^^^^ 
I noticed that the^-fn^* i'^^-^*"'^"*'"^^"*- 
excited a certdVcSr oT?eTer ^^^^^^^^^^ *^^ ^'f^ 
women and young girls esoeciallv ^k*^ "!f' '^^ 
-.g^d^their wayiThe fr^a^VuS. l^ 

sUen.c.asacr^Si:^^^---^^Jh^ 






r 



8i 



LIGHT 



from head to foot. Marie was calm, but there w<ut 
a gleam in her e>^ ; and little Marthe, who was 
banging on to me. dug her naiJ^ into mv arm. The 
pni:re was prominent on our tide, watchinff the last 
act ol the run. Ht had remained in the saddle. He 
was more splendidly red than the others— em- 
purpled, it seemed, by reflections from a throne. 
He spoke in a loud voice. Uke one who is accustomed 
to govern and likes to discourse ; and his outline 
had the very form of bidding. He expressed himself 
admirably in our language, of which he knew the 
intimate gradations. And I heard him say : 

"These great manoeuvres, after all, they're a 
sham. It's music-hall war, directed by scene- 
shifters. Hunting's better, because there's blood. 
We get too much unaccustomed to blood, in our 

f)rosaic. humanitarian, and bleating age. Ah, as 
ong as the nations love hunting, I shall not despair 
of them I " 

Just then, the crash of the horns and the thunder 
of the pack released drowned all other sounds. The 
prince, erect in his stirrups, and raising his proud 
head and his tawny moustache above the bloody 
and cringing mob of the hounds, expanded his 
nostrils, and seemed to sniff a battlefield. 

The next day. when a few of us were chatting 
together in the street near the sunken post where 
the old jam-pot lies, Benott came up, full of a tale 
to tell. Naturally it was about the prince Bcnoit 
was dejected, and his lips were drawn and trembling. 
" He's killed a bear ! " said he, with glittering 
eye, " you should have seen it, ah !— a tame bear, 
of course. Listen — he was coming back from hunt- 
ing with the Marquis and Mademoiselle Berthe and 
some people behind. And he comes on a wandering 
showman with a performing bear. A simpleton with 
long black hair like feathers, and a bear that sat on 
its rump and did little tricks and wore a belt. The 



THE BRAWLER 



•3 



like to km t^f^l a??H^i*'*** "•* *^^' ' '<* 
Tell me. my .cil'?!',: 1 o^'much Varr '""*'"«• 
for finng at the beait ? YouT i J ii ' ^^ ^^^^ 
promise vou.' Thesimnu/ K "''^ *^ * '<>»»'. ' 
Wt liis arms up in the .^?''ho ^«^V^*'''''"^'« *"*! 
jy bear's theUl aVmy br^ther^'t^' ' 'J^""' 
d'you know what the ]SaroHfI*\f ''*?>'''• Then 
He just simply tooJc out hK' InH^'^'^'^i" ^^ ^ 
put it under the cha?s „oS^"*a^"? TT^ ^' "^^ 
hunting folk thev lauiS.lH ♦ '^"'^ ^" ^^^ smart 
change? whenTe Lf ^S th^ k' V^^*^ ^'"P'^*"" 
naturally he ended fTn^!^ bank-notes. And 

and he'd^even^n^ i^nL"^* *?' *' ^"=* * »>a^«ain. 
turned from cr^^g To bn/h ""^ the rustlers that he 
loaded his gun aTten Ll ^.'"^ ' . ^^^" t»^« Prince 
it with onJ^hot^"yC"]!:Zu^' ^ ^"d W"ed 
left and right ^^4 ^tLl ^^ ^.^'' ^^ "^^ cocking 

■t here, he added ml!^,^^'- ^"^ «"'"Wn't see 

AustS orTS^ h'e^"S"v " !>"' *h"her he's 

he's a grandc* s^ he's ™t ,h '""'t? ." """Kori^n, 
likes, eh ? •■ ' ™ "'" '^'" 'he nght to do what he 

had had the nufer Sio" 'i? L . *■ """"'^ "'^« he 
a crippled hi^^liarS ? caped",'"?,'"' """'"« 
run, and his act had Kiven S ,)• 1 ^ Previous 
places.) So as soon as h^l! JiV 'P'*""" '" high 

him shit it. A?Kf^X^.''to °"'''' ^"^^ 

' ^-^^^^^^ ] ^ dgnient on princes I 



MICROCOPY KSOIUTION T!ST CHABT 

ANSI ond ISO TEST CHART No 2i 




I.I 






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84 



LIGHT 



And the rest lowered their heads and nodded and 
murmured, " Yes, he's a grandee." 

And the Uttle phrase spread abroad, timidly and 
obscurely. 



When All Saints' Day came round, mnny of the 
distinguished visitors at the castle were >till there. 
Every year that festival gives us occasion for an his- 
torical ceremony on the grand scale. At two o'clock, 
all the townsfolk that matter gather with bunches 
of flowers, on the esplanade or in front of the 
cemetery half-way up Chestnut Hill, for the cere- 
mony and an open-air service. 

Early in the afternoon I betook myself with Marie 
to the scene. I put on a fancy waistcoat of black 
and white check, and my new patent leather boots, 
which make mc look at them. It is fine weather on 
this Sunday of Sundays, and the bells are ringing. 
Everywhere the hurrying crowd climbs the hill — 
peasants in fiat caps, working families in their best 
clothes, young girls with faces white and glossy as 
the bridal satin which is the colour of their thoughts, 
young men carrying jars of flowers. All these 
appear on the esplanade, where greying lime trees 
are also in assembly. Children are sitting on the 
ground. 

Monsieur Joseph Boneas, in black, with his 
supremely distinguished air, goes by holding his 
mother's arm. I bow deeply to them. He points 
at the unfolding spectacle as he p? sses and says : 

" It is our race's festival." 

The words made me look more seriously at the 
.scene before my eyes — all this tranquil and con- 
templative stir in the heart of festive nature. Re- 
flection, and the vexations of my life, have mellowed 
my mind. The idea at last becomes clear in my 
brain of an entirety, an immense multitude in space, 



THE BRAWLER 



85 



and infinite in time, a multitude of which I am an 
integral part, which has shaped me in its imace 
which continues to krcp me hke it, and carries me 
along in its control ; mv own poopl.- 

Baroness Grille, in the riding habit that she almost 
always wears wlu-n mixing with the people, is stand- 
ing near the imposing entry to the cemetery. Mon- 
sieur the Marquis of Monthyon is holding alolt his 
stately presence, his handsome and energetic face 
Solid and sporting, with dazzling shirt-cufts and fine 
ebon-black shoes-he parades a smile. There is m 
u \" ^°"l ^ ^"^"^ Minister, very assiduous, wiio 
chats with the old duke. There are the Messrs. 
uozlan, and famous people whose names one does 
not know. Members of the Institute, of the great 
learned associations, or people fabulously wealthy 

^ot far from these groups, which are divided 
trom the rest by a scarlet barrier of beaters and the 
flashing chain of their slung horns, arises Monsieur 
i'ontan. The huge merchant and cafe owner occu- 
pies an intermediate and isolated place between 
principals and people. His face is disposed in fat 
white tiers, hke a Buddha's belly. Monumentally 
motion ess, he says nothing at all, but he tranquilly 
spits all around him. He radiates sahva. 

And for this ceremony which seems like an 
apotheosis, all the notables of our quarter are 
gathered together, as well as those of the other 
quarter, who seem different and are similar 

We elbow the ordinary types. ApoUine goes 
crabwise. She is in new things, and has sprinkled 
eau de Cologne on her skin. Her eye is bright her 
face well pohshed, her ears richly adorned. She is 
always rather dirty, and her >vrists might be 
branches, but she has cotton gloves. There are 
some shadows in the picture, for Brisbille has come 
with his crony Termite, so that his offensive and 
untidy presence may be a protest. There is another 



86 



LIGHT 



1 



blot — ft working man's wife who speaks at their 
meetings ; people point at her : 

" What's that woman doing here ? " 

" She (l(-c'sn't beUevu in Gcxl," sa\s some one. 

" Ah," says a motlicr standing by, " that's 
becanse she has no children." 

" Yes, she's got two." 

" Then," says the poor woman, " it's because 
they've never been ill." 

Here is little Antoinette, and the old priest is 
holding her hand. She must be fifteen or sixteen 
years old by now, and she has not grown — or, at 
least, one has not noticed it. Father Piot, always 
white, gentle, and murmurous, has shrunk a little ; 
more and more he leans towards the tomb. Both of 
them proceed in tiny steps. 

" They're going to cure her, it seems. They're 
seeing to it seriously." 

" Yes — the extraordinary secret remedy they say 
they're going to try." 

" No, it's not that now. It's the new doctor who's 
come to hve here, and he says, they .say, that he's 
going to see about it." 

" Poor little angel ! " 

lixe almost blind child, whose Christian name 
alone one knows, and whose health is the object of 
so much solicitude, goes stififly by, as if she were 
dumb also and deaf to all the prayers that go on 
with her. 

After the service some one comes forward and 
begins to speak. He is an old man, an officer of the 
Legion of Honour ; his voice is weak but his face 
noble. 

He speaks of the Dead, whose day this is. He 
explains to us that we are not separated from them ; 
not only by reason of the future Ufe and our sacred 
creeds, but because our Ufe on earth must be, purely 
and simply, a continuation of theirs. We must do 



THE BRAWLER 



«7 



as they did, and believe what they beHeved, else 
shall \vc fall into error and Utopianism. We are all 
linked to each other and with the past ; wc are 
bound together by an entirety of traditions and pre- 
cepts. Our normal destiny, so adiMjuate to our 
nature, must be allowed to fulfil itself along the in- 
dicafec' path, without hearkening to the tempta- 
tions of novelty, of hate, of envy — of envy above all, 
that social cancer, that enemy of the great civic 
virtue, DiscipHnc. 

He ceases. The echo of the great magnificent 
words floats in the silence. Everybody does not 
understand all that has just been said ; but all have 
a deep impression that the text is one of simplicity, 
of moderation, of obedience, and foreheads move 
altogether in the breath of the phrases Uke a field in 
the breeze. 

" Yes," says Crillon pensively, " he speaks to con- 
fection, that gentleman. All that one thinks about, 
you can sec it come out of his mouth. Commonsense, 
and reverence, we're attached to 'em by something." 

" We are attached to them by orderhness," says 
Joseph Boneas. 

" The proof that it's the truth," Cnilon urges, " is 
that it's in the disscrtions of everybody." 

"To be sure ! " says Benoit, going a bit farther, 
" since everybody says it, and it's become a general 
repetition ! " 

Th< -lod old priest, in the centre of an attentive 
circl( , ^ unstringing a few obser\ ations : 

" Er— hem," he says ; " one should not blaspheme. 
Ah, if there were not a good God, there would be 
many things to say ; but so long as there is a good 
God, all that happens is adorable, as Monseigneur 
said. We shall make things better, certainly. 
Poverty, and pubUc calamities, and war, we shall 
change all that, we shall set those things to rights— 
er - hem ! But let us alone, above all, and don't con- 



88 



L I C, H T 






,'i 



cern yourselves witli it-you would spoil everything 

meVate'y""- ''' ^'^" '^ ^'" '''''' ^"^ ^^ -' 
** Quite so, quite so," we say in chorus. 
Can we be happy all at onco." the old man l'ocs 
on change nusery into joy and poverty into 
nches ? Come now, it's not possible, and I'll tell 
you why ; if it had been as easy as all that, it would 
have been done already, wouldn't it ? " 

The bells begin to ring. The four strokes of the 
hour are just falhng from the steeple which the ridng 
mists touch already, though the evening makes use 
of It last of all ; and just then one would sa> that 
the church is beginning to talk even while it is 
singing. 

The important people get on to their horses or 
into their carnages and go away-a cavalcade where 
uniforms gleam and ,old ghtters. We can see the 
procession of the potentates of the day outhned on 
the crest of the hill which is full of ou- dead. They 
chmb and disappear, one by one. Oia M'ay is down- 
ward ; but we form-they above and we below- 
one and the same mass, all visible together 

It s fine ! " says Marie. " it looks as if tiiey were 
galloping over us ! " y ^ 

They are tlie shining vanguard that protects us 
the great eternal framework which upholds our 
country the forces of the mighty past w ich illumin- 
ate it and protect it against enemies and revolutions 
n,inH ^'^'7e.a''\a" alike, in spite of our different 
minds ; ahke in the greatness of our common in- 
terests and ev^en in the httleness of our personal 
aims. J have become increasingly conscious of this 
close concord of the masses beneath a huge and re- 
spect-inspiring hierarchy, it permits a sort of lofty 
consolation, and is exactly adapted to a life hke mine 
This evening, by the light of the setting sun. I see 
It and read it and admire it. 



THE BRAWLER 



»V 



AH together we go down by the fields where 
tranquil corn js growing, by the gardens and orchards 
wJicie honulv trcts an- making ready their offerings 
-the scented blossom which ItndH, the fruit which 
gives itse f. They form an immense plain, sloping 
and darkling, witli brown undulations under the 
t>lue wJiich now alone is becoming green. A Uttle 
girl who has come from the sptlng puts down her 
bucket an( stands at the roadside like a post, look- 
ing \utii all her eyes. Sue looks at the marching 
multitude with beaming curiosity. Her littleness em- 
braces that immensity, because it is all a part of 
Urder. A peasant who has stuck to his work in 
spite of the festival and is bent over the deep shadows 
of his held, raises himself from the earth which is so 
like lum and turns towards the golden sun the 
shining monstrance of his face. 



But what IS this, this sort of madman who stands 
in the middle of the road and looks as if. all by him- 
self, he would bar the crowd's passage > We recog- 
nise Brisbille. swaying tipsily in the twilight. There 
is an eddy and a nuittering in the flow. 

" p'you want to know where all that's leading 
you lie roars, and nothing more can be heard 
but his voice ; " it's leading you to hell ! It's the 
old rotten society, with t!ie profiteering of all them 
that can, and the stupidity of the rest ! To hell I 
tell you! lo-morrow, look out for yourselves' 
To-morrow ! " j ^- ■ 

A woman's voice cries from out the shadows in a 
sort ot scuffle : 

t • "w^ Ti?^' '''"^^^^ "^^" •' You've no right to 
frighten folks ! ' b ^^ 

But the drunkard continued to ihout full- 
throated : 

" To-morrow ! To-morrow ! D'you think things 



9u 



LIGHT 



III' 



i 



will always go on like that ? You're fit for killiiiK ! 
TohHI!" 

Some propic are impressed and disappear into 
the ovoninj;,'. Those who are marking time around 
the oh- i\\ fanatic are gros.'ing : 

" lie's noi only had, he's mad, the dirty beast I " 

" It's disgraceful," says the young curate. 

Brisbille goes up to him : 

" You tell me, then, van, what'll happen very 
soon— Jesuit, puppet, land-shark ! We know you, 
you and your filtliy poisonous trade ! " 

" Say that again!" 

It was I who said that. Leaving Marie's arm, in- 
stinctively I sprang forward and planted myself 
before the sinisicr person. After the horrified mur- 
mur which followed the insult a great silence had 
fallen on the scene. 

Astounded, and his face suddenly filling with fear, 
Brisbille stumbles, and beats a retreat. 

The crowd regains confidence, anil laughs, and 
congratulates nic, and reviles the back of the man 
who is sinking in the stream. 

" You were fine ! " Marie said to me when I took 
her arm again, slightly trembling. 

I returned home elated by my energetic act, still 
all of a tremor, proud and happy. I have obeyed 
the prompting of my blood. It was the great an- 
cestral instinct which made me clench my fists and 
throw myself bodily, Uke a weapon, upon the enemy 
of all. 

After dinner, naturally, I went to the military 
tattoo, at which, by an unpardonable indifference, I 
have not regularly been present, although these 
patriotic demonstrations have been organised by 
Monsieur Joseph Bon^as and his League of Av agers. 
A long-drawn shudder, shri . and sonorous, took 
flight through the main streets, filling the spectators, 
and especially the young folks, with enthusiasm for 



THE STORM 



91 



the great and Kloriuus Uoods of the future. And 
I ftrolus. m the front row of tfic < rowd, was striding 
along m the criin>on glow of the fairj-lamns— clad 
m a vision.iry uniform of red. 

I remeinbir that I talked a great deal that even- 
ing in our quarter, ami then in the house. Our 
quarter is something hke all towns, something hke 
all countrysides, something like it is everywhere 
It IS a foreshortened pirtur.' of all societies in the 
old universe, as my life is a picture of Hfc. 



CHAPTER IX 



THE STORM 

'' There's going to be war," said Benott on our 
doorstep one evening in July. 

" No," said Crillon, who was there too ; " I know 
well enough there'll be war some day, seeing there's 
always been war after war since the world was a 
world, and therefore there'll be another. But just 
now— at once-a big job like that ? Xonsense ! 
It's not true. No." 

Some days went by, tranquilly, as days do. 
Then the great story reappeared, increased, and 
branched out in all directions— Austria, Serbia, the 
ultimatum, Russia. The notion of war was soon 
evciywhcre. You could sec it distracting, nen and 
slackening their pace in the going and coming of 
work. One divined it behind the doors and windows 
of the houses. 

One Saturday evening, when Marie and I— like 
most of the French— did not know what to think, 
and talked emptily, we heard the town crier, who 
performs in our quarter as in the villages. 



9a 



1. 1 G H T 



" Ah ! " she said. 

We wfnl out. anil saw in the di^tanre the back 
of the man who was tappiiiK' a «lr»ini IIis smock 
was balloonetl. lie M-iiiH'd |>u>hfil aslant by the 
wiinl, stiflcninK hiin If in th«' suinnur twiU.t;lu to 
wiiind his muHU-d roil. AUhough wi- rouUl not see 
him well and scarcely heard liini. his prof,'ress 
thriiugh the street h.id ^.oniething grand .dxmt it. 
»nie people groupetl in a corner s.iid to us : 

" The mobilisation," 

No other word left tlrir lips. I went from group 
to group to form an opinion, but people drew back 
with sealed faces, or mechanitully raised their arms 
heavenwards. And vs, knew no better what to 
think now that vve were at last inturmcd. 

We went back into the court, tlu passage, the 
room, and then I said to Marie : 

" / go on the ninth da> — a week day after to- 
morrow—to my depot at Motteville." 

She looked at me, as th»,ugh doubtfu'. 

I took my military pay-book from the wardrobe 
and opened it on the table. Leaning against each 
other, we looked chastely ai the red page where the 
day of my joining was written, and we spelled it all 
out as if we were learning to read. 

Next day and the following days everybody went 
headhmg to meet the newspapers. We read in them 
— and under their different titles they wore then all 
alike — that a greJt and imanimous upsprin^ing was 
electrifying France, and the little crowd that wc 
were felt itself also caught by the rush of enthusia.^m 
and resolution. We looked at each other with shin- 
ing eyes of approval. I, too, I heard myself cry, " At 
last ! " All our patriotism rose to the surface. 

Our quarter grew fevered. We made speeches, 
we proclaimed the moral verities — or explained them. 
The echoes of vast or petty news went by in us. In 
the streets, the garrison officers walked, grown taller. 



Til K STORM 



93 



diHcloHctl It wan announr.-d that Major d.* Tian 
cheaux hail rcjoinptl, iit spit.- of his vearn. and that 
the Gt-rmar. armits had iUtackeJ unin tiim- places 
at once. \Vf tiirM'd ihf Ka -xt and rrjoiced in hii 
imnuncnt chasti^cin.nt. Ii. tho niiddl<> of it all. 
I'Vancf ap|M'and iHr>onifiril, ;,nd uc n fleeted on 
her K'reat hfr, now smldenlv and nakedly e.\iK.sed. 

"It was easy to foresee, this war. 'eh?" said 
Crillon. 

Monsieur Joseph lioneas summarised the world- 
drama ; 

" We were all paeilic to the point of stupidity- 
little saints, in fact. No one in France spoke any 
longer of revenge, nobody wished it. nobody thought 
of as much as getting ready for war. We had all of 
us m our hearts only dnairs of universal happiness 
and progress, the while Cie-rmany secretly prepared 
everything for hurling herself on us. Hut," he added, 
he also carried away, " she'll get it in the neck, and 
that's all a!)out it ! " 

The desiri' for glory was making its way, and one 
cloudily imagined Napoleon reborn. 

In those days, only the mornings and evenings 
returned as usual. Everything else was upside down, 
and seemed temporary. The workers moved and 
talked in a desert of idleness, and one saw invisible 
changes in the scenery of our valley and the cavity 
of our sky. 

We saw the Cuirassiers of the garrison go away 
in the evening. The massive platoons of young- 
faced horsemen whose solemn obstruction heavily 
hammered the stones of ♦he street were separated 
by horses loaded with ba.^s of forage, by regimental 
waggons and baggage-carts wh'ch rattled unend- 
ingly. We formed a liedgerov along the twilight 
causeways, and watLlied them all disappear. .)ud- 
denly, we cheered them. The thrill that went 
through horses and men straightened them up, and 



<^.. L 1 G H T 

they went away big*{cr— a> if t\wy were cominc' 
bat k • 

" It'* niaKnUici'Ht, how warlike we art- in France ' " 
*aiil fi-vtritl Marii'. ^jucczinK n»v arm with all her 
nufs'ht 

ihr tlfparturcs, of iinHviihiaU or k"mi|h. muhi- 
plit-U, A sort of nu'thtHh.al ami uuvitablc tni*- 
blazing— romhirtt. I MumtinuH by tia- |H»liic— ran- 
satkc«l tlu |M.j)ii!.iiion and thinn.-.l it from day to 
day aioiitid the wmnt n. 

tncrcasinK Imrly-burly wan ovorywhcre— all the 
complicated measures so puulently foreseen and mi 
inierdepi'udent ; the new posters on toj) of the old 
ones, the ''fquisitionin« of animals and places, the 
committees .m.l the allowances, the booming and 
monientc.iis j,ales <.f motor-cars filled with oIIhth 
and aristocratic muses- so manv lives turned i'lsi.le 
out and habits cut in two. Hut Iiojk' bcdaz/led all 
anxieties and stc.pjx-d up the ^aps for the moment. 
And we admired the beaut v of military orderliness, 
and !• ranee's preparation, 

Sumctim*>s, at wimhjws »r street corners, there 
were apparitions, p<-ople covered with new niforms. 
vV'c had known them in vain, and di.l not >.now them 
at first—Count d'Orchamp, lieutenant in Mic Active 
Reserves, and Dr. Hardou.x, town-major, displaying 
the cr(;ss of the Legion of Honour, fotmd themselves 
surrounded by respectful astonishment. Adjutant 
Marcassin rose suddenly U, the eyes as though he 
had come out of the earth, Marcassin brand-new 
rigid m blue and red. with ' gold stripe. One saw 
him afar, fascinating the groups of urchins who a 
week ago threw stones at him. 

" Tue old lot— the httle ones and the middling 
ones and the big ones— all getting new clothes ! " 
says a triumphant woman of the people. 
Another said it was the coming of the new reign. 



TMK STORM ,^, 

oM^r;:;.n.!^n:;;;r;:;^';iV;:::;:--'-'- 

(oMIv ,|R>t.. luh .,n«l p..|f..tr.l niatni.,1 all 

r ; o n \ •"^^"•''"'^^ ^^'"^ ^v.r. MtuUr th.. orders 

M.mMn.r I.urun (....Ian. . ,..r.ruV,.d. ,u oil"; ^ 
A untrr of l.f. had cu .1 Um If aroun.l 11,. |,o.. 

le n.ob.hs„,,n all <lays w.n SuMdav> for I. r 
Ebr r""!''''"''^ Wesavvhcrh:;i,.l„, 

duck bon... rcdd.nnig as she aire idy stagg.rc-d vith 

On our w.v ha.k. as wo passed in front of Fon. 

an. cafe-, wc cauKlil a glimp.o of f-ontan hinisrlf 

^-.duous. and his face hibricatrd w.th a sm u'' 

tl t sni.)ke. IK. had ni.TL-a>..d his Mall, and he hini- 

cf uas makni, himself two. serving ancl Umg 

H.s bu.UH.s was growing, by the fatal!, v of thi, gs 

as of >orc. Ihe far-away flntterings of th.' Marseil- 
laise were dying, We heard Ikisb.lh., d„u,k la - 
mermg with all Ins nught on his anvil, it: same 
o d shadows and the san.e lights were taki g their 
places in the honses. It seemed that ordinarN- life w^s 
■oniing baek as it had been into our corner aUer 
SIX days o supernatural disturbance, and tha* the 
past was already stronger than the present 



>f his shop door by the iighi of a lamp that 



was 



96 



LIGHT 



hooded by whirling mosquitoes, the mass of CriUon, 
who was striving to attach to a cudgel a flap for the 
crushing of flies. Bent upon his work, his gaping 
mouth let hang the half of a globular and shining 
tongue. Seeing us with our parcels, he threw down 
his tackle, roared a sigh, and said : 

" That wood ! It's touchwood, yes. A butter- 
wire's the only thing for cutting that ! " 

He stood up, discouraged ; then changing his idea, 
and lighted from below by his lamp so that he 
flamed in the evening, he extended his tawny-edged 
arm and strurk me on the shoulder. 

" We said war. war, all along. Very well, we've 
got war, haven't we ? " 

In our room I said to Marie : " Only three davs 
left." ^ 

Marie came and went and talked continually 
round me, all the time sewing zinc buttons on to 
the new poiich, stiff with its dressing. She seemed 
to be making an effort to divert me. She had on a 
blue blouse, well-worn and soft, half open at the 
neck. Her place was a great one in that grey room. 

She asked me if I should be a long time away, 
and then, as whenever she put that question, she 
went on, " Of course, you don't a bit know." She 
regretted that I was only a private Uke everybody. 
She hoped it would be over long before the winter. 

I did not speak. I saw that she was looking at 
me secretly, and she surrounded me. pell-mell, with 
the news she had picked up : 

" D'you know, the curate has gone as a private, 
no more nor less, like all the clergy. And Monsieur 
the Marquis, who's a year past the age already, has 
written to the Minister of War to put himself at his 
disposition, and the Minister has sent a courier to 
thank him." She finished wrapping up and tying 
some toilet items and also some provisions, as if 
for a journey. 



THE STORM ^,7 

" All your bits of things are there You'll K« 
absolutely short of nothing you see •' " ^' 

I hen she sat clown and sighed : 

H'r'L":™:!,';,.^' ''"'"? '^^«'^ Presentimonts. 



On Monday we hung about the house till fonr 

^htt- th'eTt aU;" " '° '" '» ""^ -^o™ h'" »" 
At the Town Hall, a group of men like mv«;plf 
cerinSi".^ ''°">!- 4^ '-^ loaded with'pa! 
I went UD to 'Jr -^K^'' ^""^ ^""^"^ '^'^' shoulders, 
w^. f nn^ ^ ^^ "^'^^ "^y "^^ companions. Tudor 
Svi^P'^ ^l ^" ^'•tiWeryman's cap. Monsieur 

^s a f h?f 7' ^"''u""^ ^^""t' embarrassed-exactlv 
TJ\ 1 fa^ctory-by the papers he held in his hand • 

^Sr!^. ''''-'^'' ^'^ ^^P°^' -dlo^" ptona; 
''I'm staying." says the adjutant master-at-arms 

■^■i w *^' t"^ *^" neutral-tinted groups • 

I m not gomg. I'm the owner of my rank Tnd 

th^y^haven't got the right to send me^^toT^n the 

We waited long, and some hours went bv A 
rumour went round that we should n^t go tfu tht 



H 



98 



LIGHT 






next day. But suddenly there was silence, a stiffen- 
ing up, and a military salute all round. The door 
-had just opened to admit Major de Trancheaux. 

The women drew aside. A civilian who was on 
the look-out for him went up, hat in hand, and spoke 
to him in undertones. 

" But, my friend," cried the Major, quitting the 
importunate with a quite miUtary abruptness, " it's 
not worth while. In two months the war will be 
over I " 

He came up to us. He was wearing a white band 
on his cap. 

" He's in command at the station," they say. 

He gave us a patriotic address, brief and spirited. 
He spoke of the great revenge so long awaited by 
French hearts, assured us that we should all be 
proud, later, to have hved in those hours, thrilled 
us all, and added : 

" Come ; say good-bye to your folks. No more 
women, now. And let's be off, for I'm going with 
you as far as the station." 

A last confused scrimmage — with moist sounds 
of kisses and litanies of advice — closed up in the 
great pubUc hall. 

When I had embraced Marie I joined those who 
were falling in near the road. We went off in files 
of four. All the causeways were garnished with 
people, because of us ; and at that moment I felt 
a lofty emotion and a real thrill of glory. 

At the corner of a street I saw Crillon and Marie, 
who had run on ahead to take their stand on our 
route. They waved to me : 

" Now, keep your peckers up, boys ! You're not 
dead yet, eh ! " Crillon called to us. 

Marie was looking at me and could not speak 

" In step ! One — two ! " cried Adjutant Mar- 
cassin, striding along the detachment. 

We crossed our quarter as the day declined over 



k 



THE STORM 



99 



it. The countryman who was walking beside me 
shook his head, and in the dusky immensity, among 
the world of things we were leaving with big regular 
steps, fused into one single step, he scattered wan- 
dering words : 

" Frenzy, it is," he murmured ; " / haven't had 
time to understand it yet. And yet, you know, 
there are some that say, I understand ; well, I'm 
telling you, that's not possible." 

The station— but we do not stop. They have 
opened before us the long yellow barrier which is 
never opened. They make us cross the labyrinth of 
hazy rails, and crowd us along a dark covered plat- 
form, between iron pillars. 

And there, suddenly, we see that we are alone. 






The town— and life— are yonder, beyond that dis- 
mal plain of rails, paths, low buildings and mists 
which surrounds us to the end of sight. A chilliness 
is edging in along with twihght. and falling on our 
perspiration and our enthusiasm. We fidget, and 
wait. It goes grey, and then black. The night 
comes to imprison us in its infinite narrowness. We 
shiver, and can see nothing more. With difficulty 
I can make out, along our trampled platform, a 
dark flock, the buzz of voices, the smell of tobacco. 
Here and there a match flame or the red point of a 
cigarette makes some face phosphorescent. And 
we wait, unoccupied, and weary of waiting, until 
we sit down, close-pressed against each other, in the 
dark and the desert. 

Some hours later, Adjutant Marcassin comes for- 
ward, a lantern in his hand, and in a strident voice 
calls the roll. Then he goes away, and we begin again 
to wait. 

At ten o'clock, after several false alarms, the right 
train is announced. It comes up, distending as it 



I 



100 



L I G H T 



.1 



it 

ft ■! 

4 ;! 



i 



r 



fi 



comes, black and red. It is already crowded, and 
it screams. It stops, ;ind turns the platform into a 
street. We climb up and put ourselves away — not 
without glimpses, by the light of lanterns moving 
here and there, of chalk sketches on the carriages 
— heads of pigs in spiked lu-lmets and the inscrip- 
tion " To Berhn ! "—the only things which slightly 
indicate where we are going. 

The train sets off. We who have just got in crowd 
to the windows and try to look outside, towards the 
level crossing where perhaps the people in whom we 
live are still watching for us ; but the eye can no 
longer pick up anything but a vague stirring, shaded 
with crayon and jumbled \\'ith nature. We are 
blind, and we fall back each to his place. When we 
are enveloped in the iron-hammered rumble of ad- 
vance, we fix up our luggage, arrange ourselves for 
the night, smo!:'., drink, and talk. Badly lighted 
and opaque with fumes, the compartment might be 
a corner of a tavern that has been caught up and 
swept away into the unknown. 

Some conversation mixes its rumble with that of 
the train. My neighbours talk about crops, and 
sunshine, and rain. Others, scoffers and Parisians, 
speak of popular people and principally of music- 
hall singers. Others sleep, lying somehow or other 
on the wood. Their open mouths make murmur, 
and the oscillation jerks them without tearing them 
from their torpor. I go over in my thoughts the 
details of the last day, and even my memories of 
times gone by when there was nothing going on. 






We travelled all night. At long intervals some 
one would let a window down, at a station ; a damp 
and cavernous breath would penetrate the overdone 
atmosphere of the carriage. We saw darkness, and 
some porter's lantern dancing in the abyss of night. 



THE WALLS loi 

Several times we made very long halts — to let the 
trains of regular troops go by. In one station where 
our train stood for hours wc saw several of them go 
roaring b>- in successi(jn. Their speed blurred the 
partitions between the windows and the huge ver- 
tebra; of the coaches, seeming to blend together the 
soldiers huddled there ; and the glance which 
plunged into the train's interior descried, in its 
feeble and whirling illumination, a long, continuous, 
and tremulous chain, clad in blue and red. Several 
times on the journey we got glimpses of these inter- 
minable lengths of humanity, hurled by machinery 
from everywhere to the frontiers, and almost towing 
each other. 



CHAPTER X 



THE WALLS 



At daybreak there was a stop, and thev said to us. 
" You're there." 

We got out, yawning, our teeth chattering, and 
grimy with night, on to a platform black-smudged 
by drizzUng rain, in the middle of a sheet of mist 
which was torn by blasts of distant ^ling. 

Disinterred from the carriages, our shadow.. ..eaped 
themselves there and waited, like bales of goods, 
in the dawn's winter. 

Adjutant Marcassin who had gone in quest of 
instructions, returned at last : " It's that way." 

He formed us in fours : " Forward ! Straighten 
up ! Keep step ! Look as if you had something 
about you ! " 

The rhythm of the step pulled at our feet and 
dovetailed us together. The adjutant marched 
apart along the little column. Questioned by one 






Z02 



LIGHT 



! 



! 



of us who knew him intimately, he made no reply. 
From time to time he threw a quick glance like the 
flick of a whip to make sure that we were in step. 

I thought I was going again to the old barracks 
where I did my term of service, but I had sadder 
disappointment than was reasonable. Across some 
land where building was going on, deeply-trenched, 
beplastcred, and soiled with white, we orrivod at 
a new barracks, sinisterly white in a velvet pall of 
fog. In front of the freshly-painted gate there was 
already a crowd of men like us, clothed in subdued 
civilian hues in the coppered dust of the first rays 
of day. 

They made us sit on forms round the guard- 
room. Vv'e waited there all the day. As the scorch- 
ing sun went round it forced us to change our places 
several times We ate with our knees for tables, 
and as I undid the little parcels that Marie had 
made it seemed to me that I was touching her hands. 
When the evening had fallen, a passing officer 
noticed as, made inquiries, and we were mustered. 
We plunged into the night of the building. Our 
feet stumbled and climbed helter-skelter, between 
pitched walls, up the steps of a damp staircase, 
which smelt of stale tobacco and gas-tar, like all 
barracks. They led us into a dark corridor, pierced 
by httle pale blue windows, where draughts came 
and went violently, a corridor spotted at each end 
by naked gas-jets, their flames buffeted and snarling. 

A lighted doonvay was stoppered by a throng 

the store-room. I .nded by getting in in my turn, 
thanks to the presence of the compact file which 
followed me and pushed me like a spiral spring. 
Some barrack sergeants were exerting themselves 
authoritatively among piles of nevv-smeUing clothes, 
of caps and glittering equipment. Geared into the 
jerky hustle from which we detached ourselves one 
by one, I made the tour of the place, and came out 



THE WALLS 



103 



of it wearing red trousers and carrying my civilian 
clothes and a blue coat on my arm ; and not daring 
to put on either my hut f)r the military cap tliat I 
held in my hand. 

We have dressed ourselves all alike. I look at 
the others since I cannot look at myself, an 1 thus 
I see myself dimly, (iloumily wc lmi sitw, by the 
miserable illumination of a candle, in the dull 
desert of the mess-room. Then, our mess-tins 
cleaned, we go down to the great yard, grey and 
stagnant. Just as we pour out into it, there is the 
clash of a closing gate and a tightened chain. An 
armed sentry gcjes up and down before the gate. 
It is forbidden to go out under pain of court-martial. 
To westward, beyond some indistinct land, we see 
the buried station, reddening and smoking Uke a 
factory, and sending out rusty flashes. On the 
other side is the trench of a street ; and in its 
extended hollow are the bright points of some 
windows, and the radio nee of a shop. With my 
face between the bars of the gate, I look on this 
reflection of the other Ufe , then I go back to the 
black staircase, the corridor and the dormitory, 
I who am something and yet am nothing, like a 
drop of water in a river. 



We stretch ourselves on straw, in thin blankets. 
I go to sleep with my head on the bundle of my 
civilian clothes. In the morning I find myself again 
and throw off a long dream — all at once impenetrable. 

My neighbour, sitting on his straw with his hair 
over his nose is occupied in scratching his feet. He 
yawns into tears, and says to me : 

" I've dreamt about m\self." 



Several days followed each other. We remained 
imprisoned in the barracks, in ignorance. The 






t I 



104 



LIGHT 



I : 



ii 



only events were those related by the ncnvspaocrs 

morn nK 1 he war got on vcrv slowly ; it im- 
mobilised Itself, and we~we did n„tlunK,»,et ween 
he rol -cal s. the parades, and fr.„„ tin,; to time 
some cleamng fatigues. We could not go into the 

h? n. ""; 7 ^'*'*-' ^""^ '^'' evening'Lstanding! 
sating strolhng m the mes3-ro.,m (which nevei^ 
seemed empty, so strong was the sru'U that tilled it) 
wandering about the dark stairs and the corridci^ 

n^vt^^l •?'."' "•■ '" ^''*^ y-'^'"^' "«• as far as the gates 
or he kitchens, which last were at the roar of the 
buildings, and smelt in turns throughout the 'iy 
of coffee-grounds and grease. ^ 

wA^Z-i"^ t»»at pcrhaps-undoubtedlv. indeed- 
we sho.-,d stay there till the end of the war We 
moped. \\ hen wc went to bed we were tired with 
s anding still or with walking ioo slowly. We 
should have liked to go to the front. ^ 

Marcassin, housed in the company office was 

Ono'^lt^r'^' r\^'P' ^" ^-y^ «" -^ in silence 
turnnH Jl ""'f '^'^'^'y ["^"^"^ ^^ ^im for having 

than that placarded. Detected, I had to stand 
before him at attention. He asked me with coarse 
language if I knew how to read, talked of puS 
ment. and added, " Don't do it again ! " This tirade 
perhaps justified on the whole. bSt tactlessly uttered 
by the quondam Pdtrolus, humiliated me deeply, and 
left me gloomy all the day. Some other incidents 
showed me that I no longer belonged to myseT 



One day after morning pa.ade, when the com- 
pany was breaking off, a Parisian of our section 
went up to Marcassin and asked him • 

Adjutant, we should Uke to know if we are 
going away." ^ ^^^ 



THr- WALLS 



105 



The officer took it In bad part. 

" To know ? Always wanting to know ! " he 
med. It H a disease in Franco, this wanting to 
know (,ot It well into your heads that you won't 
know ! VVc shall do the kn wing for you ! Words 
are done with There's sometl.ing else beginning, 
and tlu.t s disciphne and silence." 

The zeal we had felt for going to the front cooled 
off in a few days. One or two well-defined cases of 
shirking were infectious, and you heard this refrain 
again ami again : 

" As long as the others are dodging. I should 
be an ass not to do it too." 

But there was quite u multitude who never said 
anything. 

At last a reinforcement draft was oosted • old 
and young promiscuously— a list worki I out in the 
office amidst a see-saw of intrigue. Protests were 
raised, and fell back again into the trinquillity of 
the depot. * ^ 

I abode there forty-five days. Towards the 
middle of September, we were allowed to go out 
after the evening meal, and Sundavs as well. We 
used to go in the evening to the ToWn Hall to read 
the dispatches posted there ; they were as uniform 
and monotonous as rain. Then a friend and I 
would go to the caf<5. keeping step, our arms simi- 
larly swinging, exchanging some words, idle, and 
vaguely divided into two men. Or we w^nt into 
It m a body, which isolated me. The saloon of the 
cafe enclosed the same odours as Fontan's • and 
while I stayed there, sunk in the soft seat, my 
boots grating on the tiled floor, my eye on the 
white marble, it was like a strip of a long dream of 
the past, a scanty memory that clothed me There 
I used to write to Marie ; and there I read again 
the letters I received from her. in which she said, 
Nothing has changed since you went away." 



! r 



e 
I 

if' 

f 



lo6 



LIGHT 



I 



One Sunday, when I was Wachcd on a scat in 
the square, and weeping with yawns un^^jr the 
empty »ky. I «aw a young woman go l>y. By 
reason of siome resemblance in outline, I thought 
of a woman who had loved mc. I reculled the 
period when hfe was hfe, and that beautiful caressing 
body of once*on-a-timc. It seemed to me that I 
held her in my arms, so close that I felt her breath 
like jivet on my fa- e. 

We got a ghmpse of the captain at one review. 
Once there was talk of a new draft for the front, 
but it was a false rumour. Then we siid, " There'll 
never be any war for us," and that was a relief. 

My name flashed to my eyes in a departure list 
posted on the wall. My name was read out at 
morning parade, and it seemed to mc that it was 
the only one they read. I had no time to get ready. 
In the evening of the next day, our detachment 
passed out of the barracks by tlie little gate. 



CHAPTER XI 



AT THE world's END 

" We're going to Alsace," said the well informed. 

" To the Somme," said the better informed, 
louder. 

We travelled thirty-six hours on the floor of a 
cattle-truck, wedged and paralysed in the vice of 
knapsacks, pouches, weapons, and moist bodies. 
At long intervals the train would begin to move 
on again. It has left an impression with me that 
it was chiefly motionless. 

We got out, one afternoon, under a sky crowded 
with masses of darkness, in a station recently bom- 
barded and smashed, and its roof left like a fish- 



AT THE WORLDS END 107 

boiWi. It overlooked a half-clestroycd town, where 
amid a foul whitent-Hs of ruin u few faniilicn were 
making ^hift to live in the ruin. 

" 'Pear* we're in tfic Aisne countr>'," they «aid. 

A downpour wai in proKiesH, Shivering, we 
busied ourst-lves with unloatUng and distributing 
bread, our hands niimb«'d and wet, and then ate 
it hurriedly while wc sUhhI ' the road, which 
gleamed vith heavy parallel brush-strf)kc!i of grey 
paint as far as the eye could sec Eat h looked after 
himself, with hanlly a thought for the next man. 
On each side of the road were deserts without 
limits, flat and flabby, with trees like posts, and 
rusty fields patched with green mud. 

" Shjuldcr packs, and for>vard ! " Adjutant 
Marcassin ordered. 

Where were we going ? No one knew. We 
crossed the rest of the village. The Germans had 
occupied it during the August retreat. It was 
destroyed, and the destr\iction was beginning to 
live, to cover itself with fresh wreckage and dung, 
to smoke and consume itself. The rain had ceased in 
me! incholy. Up aloft in the clearings of the sky, 
clusters of shrapnel stippled the air round aero- 
planes, and the detonations reached us, far and 
line. Along the sodden road we met Red Cross 
motor ambulances, rushing on rails of mud, but we 
could not see inside them. In the first stages we 
were interested in everything, and asked questions, 
hke foreigners. A man who had been W')unded and 
was rejoining the regiment with us, answered Ub 
from time to time, and invariably added, " That's 
nothing ; you'll see in a bit." Then the march 
made men retire into themselves. 

My knapsark. so ingeniously compact, my 
cartridge-bag^: so ferociously full, my round pouches 
with their keen-edged straps, all jostled and then 
wounded my back at each step. The pain quickly 



»^ M G H T 

Sure undT "Irf • •? •'»^***' "' "•« '•»•'»"« 
rnoiHUire. uncj I mkui frh that I ^ImmiIcI not -irHv.. !t 

h« end of th. fifty minut..' nunrch b" i hd d 

whirl, , J ''} •*'''^>'* ^''^' «»»^"<-»»anical r..iHon 

v*l»lch acccmntH for Holdicr*' completing miLr 
human p .y^iral cffor.H ,o the very end ^ ^" 
TH cold blaM iM^mmdHd i„ w|,i|o we dn^^ivJ 
our^ne, through the M,^tened plain, whl-h e S^ 
wa» darkenmg. At one halt I naw one of t Ikh^. "n 

front. He had sunk down at the foot of tli stacked 
And Iht fT '^''' ^\' ^''^ »'-' enough, of' :.ar! 

^Trrt-a^i^ir^-^-f^^"^^^^^ 

But" het'h.'l?'"f ''''"^"'^"' ""^^^'•^'^'^ '" ^'»« villatjc 
uul [ hey halted us in a street. The skv h-id h... vii. 

fjr'*;"^ J^^ ^^'^"^^ "' ^'^^'^ ho,;:e ^ ad fakin on 
a grcemsh hue. and reflected and rooted themselves 
in th. r-mning water oi the street. The markef 
place curved round in front of nV -, h ..^ 
with .himng tracks. like J^oL" n^ror'"' Xh 
the SI vermg only cUngs in strips. ^'''' 

rut ^-^^J "»S^»t fully come, they bade u. march 
They made u. go forward and then draw back wkh 



AT THK VVOKLD'S END uh, 

loud word* of coinmaml. in ilir lunncU «( ttrtw!* in 
•IU?VH. and yard*, lly lanlrrn li^ht l.iry divui...l 
u^ Uito Mjuad*. I w.i> a..i«.ud to the ticvcntli. 
quartered in a villa wh.^M- Mill standing PArt» 
ap|)cari'd .|iiit.> now Adjutant Manassui In-'amc 
my HH'ti.m i hicf f wan ^tcntly kI...| ..f tKi, r„r 
in the g|iK)n»v i.mfu*icm wc stuck iU»Hly to those 
Wf kni»w. as du^H do. 

The new cunuadcn of iho srjnad-thcy |,)dged 
in the stable, whuli was ojnn an a <.iKe-explained 
to me that we were a long way from the front, over 
» X miles ; that we shoultl have four days' rest and 
then K'» on yondir to (KTupv thr trenches at the 
glass work-*. They said it would l.e like that, in 
shifts of four days, to the end of the war. and that 
moreover, one had not tt) worry. 

These words cotnfortetl the new-comers, adrift 
here and there in the straw. Their weariness was 
alleviated. They set about writing and card playins 
That eveniuK' I dated my Utter to Marie. " At ihc 
From." with a flourish of pride. I ui.derstood that 
gl«)ry consists in doing what others have done in 
being able to sav. " I, to.)." 



Three days went by in t hi ," rest camp." I ,t 
used to an existence crowded with exercises in winch 
we were Uving gear-wheels, crowded also with 
fatigues; already I was forgetting my previous 
existence. *^ 

On the I-riday at three o'ckxk we were paraded 
in marching order in tlie school yard, (iieat stones 
detached from walls and archo;;. lay about the for- 
saken grass Hkc tombs. Hustled by the wind 
we were reviewed by the captain, who fumbled in 
our cartridge-pouch; s and knapsacks with the 
intention of giving imprisonment to those who 
had not the right quantity of cartridges and iron 



\ 



no 



LIGHT 



rations. In the evening we set off, laughing and 
snghig, along the great turves of tlie road. At 
night we arrived, swaying with fatigue and savagely 
silent, at a sUppery and interminable ascent wliich 
stood out against stormy rain-clouds as heavy as 
dunghills. Many dark masses stumbled and fell with 
a crash of accoutrements on that huge sloping sewer 
As they swarmed up the chaos of oblique darkness 
which pushed them back, the men gave signs of 
exhaustion and anger. Cries of " Forward ! For- 
ward ! " surrounded us on all sides, harsh cries like 
barks, and I heard near me Adjutant Marcassin's 
voice, growling, " What about it, then ? It's for 
France's sake ! " Arrived at the top of the hill 
we went down the other slope. The order came to 
put pipes out and advance in silence. A worid of 
noises was coming to hfe in the distance. 

A gateway made its sudden appearance in the 
night. We scattered among flat buildings, whose 
walls here and there showed black holes hke ovens, 
while the approaches were obstructed with plaster 
rubbish and nail-studded beams. In places the 
recent collapse of stones, cement, and plaster had 
laid on the bricks a new and vivid whiteness that 
was visible in the dark. 

''It's the glass works," said a soldier to me. 
We halted a moment in a passage whose walls 
and windows were broken, where one could not 
make a step or sit down without breaking glass 
We left the works by sticky footpaths, full of 
rubbish at first and then of mud. Across marshy 
flats, chilly and sinister, obscurely lighted by the 
night, we came to the edge of an immense and 
paUid crater. The depths of this abyss were popu- 
lated with gUmmers and murmurs ; and aU around, 
a soaked and ink-black expanse of country gUstened 
to infinity. 

" It's the quarry," they informed me. 



AT THE WORLD'S END iii 

Our endless and bottomless march continued. 
Sliding and slipping we descended, burying our- 
selves in these profundities, and gropingly en- 
countering the hurl> -burly of a convoy of carts and 
the advance guard of the regiment we were reUeving. 
We passed heaped-up hutments at the foot of the 
circular chalky cliff that we could see dimly drawn 
among the black circles of space. The sound 
of shots drew near and multiplied on all sides ; 
the vibration of artillery fire outspread under our 
feet and over our heads. 

I found myself suddenly in front of a narrow and 
muddy ravine into which the others were plunging 
one by one. 

" It's the trench," whispered the man who was 
following me : " you can see its beginning, but you 
never see its blinking end. Any way, on you go ! " 

We followed the trench along for three hours. 
For three hours we continued to immerse ourselves 
in distance and sohtude, to immure ourselves in 
night, scraping its walls with our loads, and some- 
times violently pulled up, where the defile shrunk 
into strangulation, by the sudden wedging of our 
pouches. It seemed as if the earth tried continually 
to clasp and choke us, that sometimes it roughly 
struck us. Above the unknown plains in which we 
were hiding, space was shot-riddled. A few star- 
shells were softly whitening some sections of the 
night, revealing the excavation's wet entrails and 
conjuring up a file of heavy shadows, borne down 
by lofty burdens, tramping in a black and black- 
bunged impasse, and jolting against the eddies. When 
great guns were discliarged all the vault of heaven 
was lighted and lifted and then fell darkly back. 
" Look out ! The open crossing 1 " 
A wall of earth rose in tiers before us. There 
was no outlet. The trench came to a sudden end- 
to be resumed further on, it seemed. 



i t 



f 



* 



112 



LIGHT 



" Why ? " I asked, mechanically. 
They explained to me : " It's Mkc that," and they 
added, " you stoop down and got a move on." 

The men climbed the soft steps with bent heads, 
made their rush one by one, and ran hard into the 
belt whose only remaining defence was the dark. 
The thunder of shrapnel that shattered and dazzled 
the air here and there showed me too frightfully 
how fragile we all were. In spite of the fatigue 
clinging to my limbs, I sprang forward in my turn 
with all my strength, fiercely pursuing the signs 
of an overloaded and rattling body which ran in 
front ; and I found myself again in a trench, breath- 
less. In my passage I had glimpses of a sombre 
liekl, bullet-smacked and hole-pierced, with silent 
blots outspread or doubled, and a Utter of crosses 
and posts, as black and fantastic as tall torches 
extinguished, all under a firmament where day and 
night immensely fought. 

" I beheve I saw some corpses," I said to him 
who marched in front of me ; and there was a 
break in my voice. 

^ " You've just left your village," he replied ; 
' you bet there's some stiffs about here ! " 

I laughed also, in the dehght of having got 
past. We began again to march one behind another, 
swaying about, hustled by the narrowness of this 
furrow they had scooped to the ancient depth of 
a grave, panting under the load, dragged towards 
the earth by the earth and pushed forward by 
will-power, under a sky shrilUng with the dizzy 
flight of buUets, tiger-striped with red, and in some 
seconds saturated with light. At forks in the way 
we turned sometimes right and sometimes left, all 
touching each other, the whole huge body of the 
company fleeing blindly towards its bourne. 

For the last time they halted us in the middle 
of the night. I was so weary that I propped my 



AT THE WORLDS END nj 

?n?^2!^f S*^ '^'' ^^" ^"^ ^^"^ained kneeling 
for some blissful minutes. ^ 

My sentry turn began immediately, and the 
hcutenant posted me at a loophole. He made me 
put my face to the hole, and explained to r^e tl^? 

wh?.hr>f' K r^'^'^ ^^°P^ "ght »" f'-ont orus o 
t^ n.h^ bottom was occupied by the enemy ; ind 
to right of us, three hundred yards away the 

thrw^r^^ '"^^'y''' ^'>^^^- I had to^Jch 

star-shell, the creamy expanse which divided our 

and Mt •„,. f '"^ ,""" ""'^^^ ^° ^^ ^" ^^se of alarm, 
ana i-iit me quite alone. 

*hi !l!''"^^* ^ ^^""^"^ '^^ ^^"'^ of the dim shadows of 
the plain moving, and some in the chasm of the 
wood, and everywhere ! Affected by terror and a 
sense of my huge responsibihty, I could hardly stifle 
a ciy of anguish. But they did not move.^ The 
fearful preparations of the shades vanished before 
my eyes, and the stillness of lifeless things slewed 
Itself to me. 

m Jif/^- ""^^1^ knapsack nor pouches, and I wrapped 
myself m my blanket. I remained at ease, encircled 

bv rlirf r ^^ ^^l "^^.^^"^ry of vv-ar. surmounted 
by claps of hving thunder. Very gently, my viril 
reheved and calmed me. I remembered noth S 
more about myself. I appHed myself to watching^ 
I saw nothing, I knew nothing. ^ 

After two hours, the sound of the natural and 
complaisant steps of the sentry who came to reUeve 
me, brought me completely back to myself. I de- 
tached myself from the spot where I had seemed 
nveted and went to sleep in the " grotto " 



114 



LIGHT 



! 1 



h 



The dug-out was very roomy, but so low that in 
one place one had to crawl on hands and knees to 
slip under its ri)Ugh and mighty roof. It was full 
of heavy damp, and hot with men. Extended in 
my pla( e on straw dust, my neck propped by my 
knapsack, I closed my eyes in comfort. When I 
opened them, I saw a group of soldiers seated in a 
circle, and eating from the same dish, their heads 
blotted out in the darkness of the low roof. Their 
feet, grouped round the dish, were shapeless, black, 
and trickUng, Uke stones disinterred. They ate in 
common, without table things, no man using more 
than his hands. 

The man next me was equipping himself to go on 
sentry duty. He was in no hurry. He filled his 
pipe, drew from his pocket a tinder-lighter as long 
as a tape- worm, and said to me : 

" You're not going on again till six o'clock. Ah, 
you're very lucky." 

Diligently he mingled his heavy tobacco clouds 
with the vapours from all those bodies which lay 
around us and rattled in their throats. Kneeling at 
my feet to arrange his things, he gave me some 
advice : 

" No need to get a hump, mind. Nothing ever 
happens here. Getting here's by far the worst. On 
that job you can get it hot, specially when you've 
the bad luck to be sleepy or it's not raining, but 
after that you're a workman, and you forget about 
it. The most worst, it's the open crossing. But 
nobody I know's ever stopped one there. It was 
other blokes. It's been like this for two months, 
old man, and we'll be able to say we've been through 
the war without a chilblain, we shall." 

At dawn I resumed my look-out at the loophole. 
Quite near, on the slope of the little wood, the 
bushes and the bare branches are broidered with 
drops of water. In front, under the fatal space 



in 



AT THE WORLD'S END 115 

where the eternal passage of projectiles is as undis- 
tinguisliablc as light in daytime, the field resemble- 
a field, the road rcseinM.s a road. Ultimately one 
makes uut some corpses, but what a strangely little 
thing IS a corpse in a held— a tuft of colourless 
flowers which the shortest blades of grass disguise » 
At one moment there was a ray of sunshine, and it 
resembled the past. 

Thus went the days by, the weeks and the months • 
four days m the front Hne. the harassing journey to 
and from it, the monotonous sentry-go, the spy-hole 
on the plain, the mesmerism of the empty outlook 
and of the deserts of waiting ; and after that, four 
days of rest camp, full of marches and parades and 
great cleansings of implements and of streets, with 
regulations of the strictest, anticipating all the dif- 
ferent occasions for punishment, a thousand fatigues 
each with as many harsh knocks, the htany of 
optimist phrases, abstruse and Utopian, in the orders 
of the day, and a captain who chiefly concerned 
himself with the two hundred cartridges and the 
reserve rations. The regiment had no losses, or 
almost none; a few wounds during reliefs, and 
sometimes one or two deaths which were announced 
hke acciaents. We only underwent great weariness, 
winch goes away as fast as it comes. The soldiers 
used to say that on the whole they lived in peace 

Mane would write to me : " The Piots have been 
saying nice things about you." or " The Trompsons' 
son is a second-lieutenant," or " If you knew all the 
contnvances people have been up to, to hide their 
gold since it's been asked for so loudly ! If you 
knew what ugly tales there are ! " or " Evervthinc 
IS just the same." ^ 



■|i 



Once, when we were coming back from the lines 
and were entering our usual village, we did not stop 



f'l 



ii6 



LIGHT 



I : 






111! 



tliere, to the great distress of the men who were 
worn out. and yielding to the force of the knapsack. 

u^fhT^'""^ ^'?« ^\ '■^'^^^ ^'"■"^'«>^^' the evening 
with lowered heads ; and one hour later we dropped 

off around dark huildings-niournful tokens of an 

unknown place-and they put us away amone 

shadows which had new shapes. From that time 

onwards they changed the viUngc at every reUef 

and we never knew what it was until we were there' 

y'as ' 't'ged m barns, into which one wriggled by 

a laddei in spongy and steamy stables, in cellars 

where undisturbed draughts stirred up the mouldy 

smells that hung there, in frail and broken hangars 

wo!,n^.HT'? *° ^''Jr ^^^ '''^^^''' in sick Ind 
wounded huts, in villages remade athwart their 

phantoms in trenches and in caves— a world upside 

down. We received the wind and the rain in our 

Sleep. Sometimes we were too brutally rescued 

from the pressure of the cold by brasiers whose 

poisonous heat spUt one's head. And we forgot it 

all at each change of scene. I had begun to note 

m.lT'^^!^ u?^^f ' "^^ "^^'^ ^°'"& tO' but I lost 
myseh m the black swarm of words when I tried to 
recall them. And the diversity and the crowds of 
!iJ"5"«?''7"'^ ""^ "^^'^ s"^^ t^at I managed only 
fTces ^" ^^ ^"^ ^"^"^^ ^^^*i"g nances to their 

My companions did not look unfavourably on me 
but I was no more than another to them. In inter- 
vals among the occupations of the rest camp I wan- 
dered spiritless, blotted out by the common soldier's 
miserable umform. familiarly addressed by any one 
and every one, and stopping no glance from a woman, 
by reason of the non-coms. 

I should never be an officer, Uke the Trompsons' 
son It was not so easy in my sector as in his. For 
IwK be necessary for things to happen 

which never would happen. But I should have liked 



■'1 



AT THli VVOkLirs KM) ,17 

to be taken into the olVice. Others were there who 
were not so clearly indicated as I for that work I 
regarded mjhclf as a victim of injustice. 



1 
I 




Termite. BnsbiUe s crony and accomplice ; and he 
arrived m our company by voluntary enlistment ' 
He was as skimpy and warped as ever, liis body 
seeming to grimace through his uniform. His new 
great-coat looked worn out and his boots on the 

ZTui Tf "', '^"^ ^^'' '•""^'' "K*>'' ''""J^i"g face 
and black-furred cheeks and rasping voice. I wel- 
comed him warmly, for by his cnhstment he was 
redeeming his past life. He took advantage of the 
occasion to address me with intimacy. I talked with 
him about Vivicrs, and even let him share the news 
that Mane had just written to me-that Monsieur 
Joseph Boneas was taking an examination in order 
to become an officer in the police. 

.w^"^.*^^?°^''^^'■ ^]^^ """^ completely sloughed his 
old self He looked at me sideways and shook in 
the air his grimy wrist and the brass identity disc 
that hung from it-a disc as big as a forest ranger's 
perhaps a trophy of bygone days. Hatred of the 
rich and titled appeared again upon his hairy sly 

" Those blasted nationalists," he growled • " they 
spend their time shoving the idea of reveAge into 
folks heads and patching up hatred with their 
Leagues of Patriots and their military tattoos and 
their twaddle and their newspapers, and when their 
war does come, they say. Go and fight." 

There are some of them who have died in the 
hrst line. Those have done more than their duty " 

With the revolutionary's unfairness, the little 
man would not admit it. 

" No— they have only done their duty— no more/' 



I 



Il8 



f. IGHT 



\i\^ 



H! 



I was going to urge Monsieur Joseph's weak con- 

1 Cv H '" P;-*cnce of that pun - man with his 

hin furry face who might have stayed u home I 

forbore. But I decided to avoid in his company 

hose subjects m which I felt he was full of sour 

hostihty and always ready to bite. 

Contmually we saw Marcassin's eve fixed on us 
though aloof. His new bestriped „Utrha d 

A;Ik, 1 "*", ^'^'^'»,s«^«"ed to have become sud- 
denly more educated, and made no mistakes when 
.tseir^i f"' "?"'^»P'»«d himself, was attcntiveness 

WhL .K ""'^ ""^.yf *^ ^^P"''* ^'"""^'^^ to danger. 
When there were night patrols in the creat naked 
cemetenes bounded by tL graves of th'e Ih^ing. he 
was always m them. ** 

But he scowled. We were short of the sacred fire 
in his opinion, and that distressed him. To grumble! 

exhausts, the disillusion which destroys, against 
wSly ^'^' ^^ ''^^ ""^ ^"^"' ^' ^"«^'«"<^d 

" Can't you see it's for France ? Why hell and 
damnation ! As long as it's for France-^V'' ^ 

One morning when we were returning from the 

mfnnt .?' J^V^ '" '" ^^^'^^^ ^^^"' ^"""g the last 
Scaoe him ^f\^S^•,^ P^^ting soldier let the words 
escape mm— I m fed up, I am ! " 
The adjutant sprang towards him • 
Aren't you ashamed of yourself, I og ? Don't 

arou?"''"^""'' " "°^*' y°"^ ^'^'y ^'^i" -nd 

sho'>ledtht: '''''"'' '"' '°^""' ^" "'^ ^°''^*^' 

he'g^wkd ^'" ''^ • ^'"' '^'''' '^' ^^^"'^h'" 

And his pal. goaded also by weariness, raised his 
voice from the ranks : . ^cu ms 



L 



AT THE 

right! 



WORLHS END 119 
After all, it's the men that's 



" That's 
there." 

" Great GfHl ( " the adjutant roared in their faces ; 
" France is France, and notliing else, and you don't 
count, nor you either ! " 

But the soldier, all the while hoisting up his knap- 
sack with jerks of his hips and lowering his voice 
before the non-com. 's aggressive excitement, clung 
to his notion, and murmured between his puffings : 

" Men— they're humanity. That's not the truth 
perhaps ? " 

Marcassin began to hurry through the drizzle along 
the side of the marching column, shouting, and 
trembling witl* emotion : 

" To hell with your humanity, and your truth, 
too ; I don't give a damn for them. / know your 
ideas— universal justice and 1789'— to hell with 
them, too. There's only one thing that matters in 
all the earth, and that's the glory of France— to 
give the Bochos a thrashing and get Alsace-Lorraine 
back, and money, that's where they're taking you, 
and that's all about it. Once that's done, all's over! 
It's simple enough, even for a blockhead Uke you. 
If you don't understand it, it's because you can't 
lift your pig's head to see an ideal, or because you're 
only a Sociahst and a confiscator I " 

Very reluctantly, rumbling all over, and his eye 
threatening, he went away from he now silent 
ranks. A moment later, as he passed near me, I 
noticed that his hands still trembled, and I was 
infinitely moved to see tears in his eyes I 

He comes and goes in pugnacious surveillance, in 
furies with difficulty restrained, and masked by a 
contraction of the face. He invokes Deroulede, and 
says that faith comes at will, hke the rest. He'Uves 
in perpetual bewilderment and distress that every- 
body does not think as he does. He exerts real in- 
» Outbreak of the French Revolution. — Tr. 



f 



I20 



I 



LIGHT 






fluencc. for there are. in the muhitudc. whatever 
they may say. beautiful and profound insUncTi 
always near the surface. »nBiincis, 

The captain, who wai a well-balanced man 

u In Jf ^^•'Pu'" '""■ '""''''• considered the 
adjutant animated by an excellent spirit but hi 
himself was not so fiery. I was cettinTa l^tf^r 

Jia:y\rm:5:;::';a"ir^'^'"^'^"* ^"'^-' ^^^^ 

Our lieutenant, who was very younc seemed to b# 
an amiable, good-natured fellow ^ *^ 

,_ Hes a good little lad." said the grateful men • 

talk^fh n^ «r ; ^^''^^ '' Y^" ''^ ^*"P»d- When you 
talk to him about you and your family, which isn't 

old manT "''^ '"''^''""«' ^^"' ^' ^^^^ns to you! 



St. Martin's summer gently warmed us as w«» 
tramped into a new village. 1 remeXr that one 
o those days I took Margat with me. and went w°?h 
him into a recently shelled house. (Marga wis 

h rS T'"'' '-^'Jr^' «'^^«^' the onl/ one o 

foXrrm:?''^ 'r^ wh^h^Stlathe'd 

The room im^K''^/"^ ^^ ^°^^« ^^^n empty, 
ihe room still showed remains of luxury and ele 

S:7:4nr'°"^"\^ P^r ^^^'^ clus[^rs of pt 
truding s.nngs ; a cupboard, dislodged and rotting 
^though disinterred ; a white-powdered floor sown 
with golden stnpes and rumpS books, and wiTh 



I 



AT THE WOKLDS £ N I) 121 

fragile drhri« which rricd out when we trod on it. 
Acro»» the window, which was framed in broken 
Khi>.!i, a curtain hun^ by one corner and fluttered 
Hke a bat Over the sundered firtpla<e u.ily a mirror 
was intact and unsuUietl, upright in its frame. 

Then, become suddenly and pn»foundlv Hke each 
i'ther. wo were both fascinated by the virginity of 
that long glass. Its perfect integrity lent it some- 
thing hke a body. Each of uh picked up a brick, 
and we broke it with all our might, not knowing 
why. We ran awa\ tlown the shaking spiral stairs 
whose steps were hidden imder deep ruf^bish. At 
the bottom, we hH)ked at each other, still excited 
and already ashamed of the fit of barbarism which 
had so suddenly risen in us and urged our arms. 

" What about it ? It's a natural thing to do— 
we're becoming men again, that's all," said Margat. 

Having nothing to do, wc sat down then, com- 
manding a view of the dale. The day had been fine. 

Margat's looks strayed here and there. He frowned 
and disparaged the village because it was not like 
his own. What a comical idea to have built it Hke 
that ! He did not like the church, the singular shape 
of it, the steeple in that position instead of where 
it should have been. 

Orango and Kcmus came and sat down by us in 
the ripening sim of evening. 

Far away we saw the explosion of a shell, Hke a 
white shrub. W^e chuckled at the harmless shot in the 
hazy distance, and Remus made a just observation : 

" As long as it's not dropped here, you might say 
as one doesn't mind, eh ? s'long as it's dropped some- 
where else, eh ? " 

At that moment a cloud of dirty smoke took shape 
five hundred yards away at the foot of the village, 
and a heavy detonation rolled up to where we were. 

" They're plugging the bottom of the village." 
Orango laconically certified. 



Ji 



I I 



i 



'" MGHT 

, "Wh.. do yi/w'"'^^' "7"' •'•'"'''<<■• money r •• 

vofcc "ndtr' "'""" ™"'"'^''' '" •"'"•T.gc hi, 
'I'm a grocer." 

enouS, "d.rn^U'j'l},.;',' Z'"''' ' ^ ""- «oU 
"trongesi o/ all •■ ''"' "" "*">' ProBl* the 

" Why, yoMo be sure, old man,- rWnus ropUed. 

questioned mo asl, ' SS '^■'"'™' ^""'o "P and 

leave that I'd a LhT^o and ? ?P""" .'" a'k for 

'o "y my aun,., sCly d«ea Lj "'t?"? " !f"" 
eye and Bettv Martin ' f "^^*^^^cd. That s a 1 mv 
«{[. •Thafs'rhe'Cl?^;;;^,^ i^if „A"<1 ! says 'om/ 
tell me. you. When tl...T.r i N«wthen, 

there begin full ju t"cc or nt *^^^"' ^^^ ^'d"' 
could have done t a d selrnn^ °"'' '"^''"S ^^^V 
raised no objection hi^f^h^ \1?^ wouldn't havj 
the contraryf And^Son't^i- ^^^^ '^ »* ^" J^^t 
happened to me but theV' ^^T '^ =^ °"^^ ^J^^f. 
• ^"^ ^^^^'^ ^ b'g business men, they 



ATI hi: VVORf. ds »: ND i..j 

•ay, all of a fttuldcn making i hundnnl francs a day 
pxtra because of the irnirdc ing. and them yoiinK 
men an' all. iind a lot of toffed up ♦^liirktrs ut thf 
ri'ar that'j* ten tim« . HtronKcr than this pack of half- 
dead Territorials t.'uit they haven't sent home evm 
thi-i mnrninK y«l. and they have l)can«)es in the towns 
with ti cir Ti»ttits and their jewel* and chami)ai;nc 
like what Ju^vrand tells us ! " to* 

I replied that complete justice was impossible, 
that we had to look at the great mass of tlungs 
generally. And then having said this, I became em- 
barrassed in face of the stubborn in<|uisitiveness. 
clumsily strict, of this ronirade who was seeking the 
light all by himself I 

I'ollowing that incident, I often tried during days 
of monotony to collect n»y ideas on war. I could 
not. I am sute of certain points, jwints of which I 
have always been sure. I'arther I cannot go. I rely 
in the matter on those who guide us, who withhold t he 
policy of the State. But sometimes I regret that I no 
longer have a spiritual director like Joseph Boncas. 

For the rest, the men around mc — except when 
personal interest is in question and except for a few 
chatterers who suddenly pour out theories which 
contain bit.s taken bodily from the newspapers— the 
men around mc are indifferent to every problem too 
remote and too profoimd concerning the succession 
of inevitable misfortunes which sweeps us along. 
Beyond immediate things, and especially personal 
matters, they arc pnidently conscious of their ignor- 
ance and impotence. 

One evening I was coming in to sleep in our stable- 
bedroom. The men lying along its length and 
breadth on the bundles of straw had been talking 
together and were agreed. Some one had just 
wound it up : 

" From the momciil you st.irt marching, that's 
enough." 



124 



M G H T 



and said : ''"^ °" ^"^ ^nst like a bell. 

less. ^^^ ^''"^-^ ^"resaw would be end- 

Pay attention, vou fellowc v.^' 
'ibout militarism " annm nln7 ' "^ ' ^Tomg to talk 
Who. ,H., i^i ,r,~. l^^^^m Pinson, 

went'ir ' "" ''"^"'°" °' militarisn,— ■• Termite 

meeting words andra«in„. . °' '"^ ""8 PoW'c- 
^Pider-Lb c„;taTn'„?tri^S^f ^ '"""''"^ °" "- 

conJ„?ed"to rdiit"" " '""'"' "'^y ^^'■" Tennite 
hajte"n'ed to^Je'cord"®' ''"" '" '"^ °P«' ' " ^n^on 



" '^">S'sSr'"' rn;': ^'i^ Territodal who 
not as sSefu "rll r.fef_ '" - >-. 



was a fifood 

and I':^ not as sp7tefu Ykno'f^'f.f' ^^' ^' y°"' 
us, and that we only wanted tn k ^* *^'^^' '"* ^^^"t 
with everybody Uv 1.-- T "^"^'^ ^"^ ^"^"^^ 
instance, in the^Crer^r^unt? A''"'^^^^"^' ^«^ 
" You know ? '' K I °i^^' -^ ^"ow that^ " 

knowZh^"n7abou?7c^rhinIn': ^"^"^T '^ " ^- 
little tame animal lik^a llh! J " '^ ""^^ ^ P^or 
gather us toge^; but thev .^^""T' '^ P^^^" ^h^y 
what they like to us or .^^ T ^'^*' "^- ^hey say 
believe it"^ They say to yotf ^Th* '-'^ '^ ^"^ ^^^ 
got to believe in ! ' Thev^" ' '' ""^^^ ^^^'^^ 






AT THE WORLD S END 125 

T.ri,^;*rl"'?;'^^^ ^'^'''"S pnvately incensed against 
Termite, by the same instmct which had once thrown 
me upon his accomplic. Bnsbille. I interrupted him 
VV.Ho are they >uui ' <Jirv ' ? " 
" Kings," said ' err.iie. 

At that momen Marcassin' silhouette appeared 
in the grey of the ai..y /.:. h ended among us 

Look out-there's Marc' ! Shut your jaw," one 
of the audience benevolently advised 

" I'm "ot afeared not to say what I think ! " de- 
clared Termite, instantly lowering his voice and 
worming his way through the straw that divided 
the next stall from ours. 

We laughed again. But Margat was serious. 
Always, he said. " there'll be the two sorts of 
obe^irs '^''''' ' ^^^'^ been-the grousers and the 
^_ Some one asked : " What for did yon chap 

" '^°l*?^^£. ^^^ nothing to eat in the house " 
answered the Territorial, as interpreter of the generd 
opinion. ^ 6 v-'«i 

Having thus spoken, the old soldier yawned, went 
on aU-fours, arranged the straw cf his claim, and 
added : 

'; W^e'U not worry, but just let him be. 'Specially 
seeing we can t do otherwise." 

It was time for slumber. The shed gaped open in 
front and at the sides, but the air was not cold. 
^ We ve done with the bad days." said Remus ; 

shan t see them no more." 

" At last ! " said Margat. 

We stretched ourselves out. elbow to elbow The 
one in the dark corner blew out his candle 

" May the war look slippy and get finished ! " 
mumbled Orango. 

" If only they'll let me transfer to the cvchsts " 
Margat replied. ^ ' 



11 I 



U 



126 



LIGHT 



!i 



VVc said no more, eacli forming that same great 
wandering prayer and seme little prayer like Mar- 
gat s. Gently we wrapped ourselves up on the 
straw, one with the falling niglit ; and closed our eyes. 

At the bottom of the village, in the long piu" 
farmhouse, there was a charming woman! who 
smiled at us with twinkUng eyes. As the days 
emerged from the rains and fogs, I looked at her 
with all my soul, for she was bathed in the youth of 

1 K^f •• f^^ ^^^ ^ ^'"^^ "^se and big eyes, and 
shght fair down on her lips and neck, Hkc traces of 
gold. Her husband was mobiUsed, and we paid 
attentions to her. She smiled at the soldiers as she 
went by, and chattered willingly with the non- 
^°"™!." i-n"1 ^^^ passage of officers brought her to a 
standstill of vague respect. I used to think about 
Her ; and I forgot, through her, to write to Marie. 

f.rrn''''"'^ '^T "".^"7 "^^'^ inquired, speaking of the 
farmer s wife. ''Any chance ? " But there were 
many who replied, " Nothing doing." 

One morning that was bright above all others, mv 
companions were busy holding their sides around a 
tipsy comrade whom they were catechising and 
ragging and sprinkling now and then with Uttle 
doses of wme, to entertain him. and benefit more 
1- u ^ ^^^^^ innocent amusements, Uke those 
which Termite provoked when he discoursed on 
mihtarism and the universe, did not detain me, and 
I gained the street. 

.nJi "^^"^ ^u"^? ^i"^ P^''^^ '^°P^- In gardens and 
enclosures the buds were holding out a multitude of 
Lilhputian green hands, all still closed, and the apple 
trees had white roses. Spring was hastening every- 
where. I came in sight of the pink house. She was 
alone in the road, and she took all the sunshine for 
herself. I hesitated. I went by-my steps slackened 



AT THE WORLD'S END 127 

heavily— I shopped, and returned towards the door. 
Almost in spite of myself, I went in. 

At first— hglit ! A square of sunshine glowed on 
the red tiled Hoor of the kitchen. Casseroles and 
basins were shining brightly. 

She was there ! Standing by the sink, sh«^ was 
making a streak of silver flow into a gleam? jail, 
amid the luminous blush of the polished tn..., and 
the gold of the brass pans. The greenish light from 
the window-glass was moistening her skin. She saw 
me and she smiled. 

I knew that she always smiled at us. But we 
were alone ! I felt a mad longing arise. There was 
something in me that was stronger than I, that 
ravished the picture of her. Every second she 
became more beautiful. Her plump dress proffered 
her figure to my eyes, and her skirt trembled over 
her polished sabots. I looked at her neck, at her 
throat — that extraordinary beginning. A strong 
perfume that enveloped her shoulders was like the 
truth of her body. Urged forward, I went towards 
her, and I coul ' • even speak. 

She had low^ - r head a Uttle ; her eyebrows 
had come nearer .^cther under the close cluster of 
her hair ; uneasiness passed into her eyes. She was 
used to the boyish mimicry of infatuated men. But 
this woman was not for me ! She dealt me the blow 
of an unfeeling laugh, and disappearing, shut the 
door in my face. 

I opened the door ; I followed her into an out- 
house. Stammering something, I found touch again 
with her presence, I held out my hand. She slipped 
away, she was escaping me for ever— when a mon- 
strous Terror stopped her ! 

The walls and roof drew near in a hissing crash of 
thunder, a dreadful hatch opened in the ceiling, and 
all was filled with black fire. And while I was hurled 
against the wall by a volcanic blast, with my eyes 



f 
^ II 



:!!':• 



l!:' 



I '.5 



I n i 
ill 



128 



LIGHT 



^ZfaLnLTft T' '"^ "^y ^^^'^ hammered, 
wmje around me the stones were pierced and rni«hA,r 

iSam? rLT", ',?!!"*? ^ ^ fan'"' ?c"s. routof 
HxAk T"" ^u^* ' ''"^^ ""t- '"ccoughing ■ Assaulted 

I wT= ^ u i^ ^y ^*S^* °^er the shifting ground 
L ^'?' u'^ ^y th^ ™ass of maddened falm^ 

clouds as m a tumult of beating wings 
A veritable squall of shells was falUna in fK- ' 

«pralX"rtrr;a^^ 

of a wall we watched it appear under TvluuZ 
smoke ,„ the vivid flashes o^tLt uZaturd tem-st 
Why, you're covered with blood i " a comS 
said to me, disquieted. ' 'on^ado 

Stupefied and still thunderstruck, I looked afth^t 

iThaJT' '"? "Z'"'™ ^P'™- '"« human houi 
front wfsd^wn"'' ''■°'" '? '° "o""'"' »d ""the 

s a?ed celluteof ts'ro^„"t tT™" ""^ '^^ ^' ""^ 
the fl.,« ,S J °™*' "■* geometric path of 

felefon Va bed "^rthf" "'' "'="" °" "« 
hanging floor ''S!„ai'„"ed'=lnJ'^Lr^' rTh^ 
bod.es of two officers, pierced and spiked to tto' 



AT THE WORLD'S E 



ND 



129 



places round the table where they were lunching 
when the hghtning fell~a nice lunch, too. for wf 
saw plates and glasses and a bottle of chanipagne 

Ferrilre." "' ^^'^''^ ^"^ Lieitenant 

One of these spectres was standing, and with 
cloven jaws so enlarged that his head wt half orn 
he was smiling. One arm was raised aloft in the 

o^herhirfirf"'^;^''^ '-^^ '^^" -^- ^^^^- The 

other his hne fair hair untouched, was seated with 
h s elbows on a cloth now red as a Turkey carpet 
hideously attentive, his face besmeared with shininl^ 
blood and full of foul marks. They seemed Uke t "0 
statues of youth and the joy of hfe, framed in horror 
lliere s three ! some one shouted, 
rhis one whom we had not seen at first, hung in 
he air with danghng arms against the sheer wall 
hooked on to a beam by the bottom of his trourers.' 
A pool of blood which lengthened down the fit 
plaster looked Uke a^rojected shadow At each 
fresh explosion splinters were scattered round him 

^. 1, r^'"?'' '^' ^^^""^^^ t^^ '^^ad man was still 
marked and chosen by the bUnd destruction 

Ihere was something hatefully painful in the 
don-like attitude of the hanging corpse. 

Then Termite's voice was raised : " Poor lad 1 " 
he said. 

He went out from the shelter of the wall 

wayt'' ^^°'' "^^^ • " ^^ '^""^^"'^ ' " ^"'^ ^^^^' ^"y- 
A ladder was there. Termiie seized it and dragged 
t towards the disemboweUed house, which was 
lashed every minute by broadsides of splinters. 

t. .1™'*? \r '^'J^'* ^^^ lieutenant, " I forbid you 
to go there! You're doing no good." 

"I'm the owner of my skin. lieutenant." Termite 
rcphed, without stopping or looking round 

He placed the ladder, cUmbed up. and unhooked 



I 



■!l,. 



m 



'30 LIGHT 

tt wSuITe bAnl^";^*'";'*' ">« P'«'«^ of 
white fi^e He d««nd Km '^.^'l^^* ""^''^ ="1 
("Uy, laid it on ""e KrouM "'h ■' ""^^ ^"^ 'W'" 
up lie ran bacit to uj^t! Ln '^T^"'"8 doubled 
had witnessed the sce^ °" ""' "P'"'"' "ho 

th7/ouTe?e"a''''anrC %\"/:- "een told 

n.^phifhXt^'s^'Lrd^^^^ """' "'» "-<■ 

was no one amoni^ us u-h r , "' ^""^ ^^"- ^^ere 
had tried and L^S ^ „ ^^,"°/ ^i^^^^.^tly wish he 

done. But assuredK 'v^ did no ^i'?''' ^^ ^"^* 
this strange soldier ^ ^ ^" understand 

^It's ovel- '•°'"' ^" ^'r bombardment. 
It s over, we concluded 

onfsp:Lt;T4^:s «^"-^'' ™""<" T^™"'. -d 

.'.' l""'."" '"\ ^"••"■chist, then ? ■• 

na^°„hriVt:™' '■ ■' '■"' ^" ""ernationalist. 
"Ah I" 

"^.'™'' '° ""row light on his words • 

Thert" dXsiv?:^;';^^^ ^ '™^^ "'>^" »-'= good, 

sive w^r"; 1^^'S,:^: '^^'^ ""'y o«en. 
wouldn't be the defensiv!! " offensive there 



THE SHADOWS ,3, 

" Ah ! " we replied. 

U'e went on chatting, dispassionately and for the 

^.\^rJf^'l^'u'^'''^^'''^ '" *^^ dubious security of 
the streets which were sometimes darkened bv fall, 
of wreckage, under a sky of formidable sufpriLr 

vented Fra'n.':?"' ''k * '' ""^""P' ^^' >'"» ^^at pre- 
*" T? .^^ ^'■^"^ ^'-^'"g prepared ? " ^ 

I here s not enough chaps like me to orevent 

Ktfn an"/wl:^-^'^ '^^ ^^^ ^'^^^^^ 

yvhJrV' """/^^ '''"'"'d'" •'^^»'l 'f^^te ; - that's 
wny fmanmternationalist." 

While Termite was slipping away somewhere else 

^^ ••^Never mind." he said to us. " that chap's better 

Gradually it came about that we of tlie snnari 
used to consult Termite on any sort of sub ect S 
e%en"Sed 'i^e' "-?^^"^ '-ile-and simltre^ 
one"askedtm :"" ^''^ "'^'^' '°^ '"^*^"^e. some 

ready" ''^'' "^""^"^^ '^ ^" ^"^^'^ they're getting 
But he knew no more than the rest. 



CHAPTER Xn 

THE SHADOWS 

ZlhftT ^^T ^^^ '^^ ^'■^"ches on the day we 
ought to have done. Evening came then niJht 
nothing happened. On the morning of the fifth drv 
some of us were leaning, full of idleness anfuncer"^ 



! i. ;. 



I 'ill 



13^ 



LIGHT 



tainty, against tia- front of a house that had been 
holed and bungt-d up again, at the corner of a street. 
One of our comrades bald to me : 

" Perhaps we shall stay here till the end oi the 
war. 

Tliere were signs of dissent, but all the same the 
httle street we had not left on the appointed dav 
seemed just then to resemble the sticets of y«)re ! 

Near the place where we were watching the hours 
go by— and fumbUng in packets of that coarse 
tobacco that has skeletons in it— the hospital was 
installed. Through the h)W door we saw a broken 
stream of poor soldiers pass, sunken and betlraggled 
with the sluggish eyes of beggars ; and the clean and 
wholesome uniform of the corporal who led them 
stood forth among them, 

Tl-.ey were always pretty much the same men who 
haunted the inspection rooms. Many soldiers make 
It a pomt of honour never to report sick, and in their 
obstinacy there is an obscure and profound heroism 
Others give way, and come as often as possible to 
the gloomy places of the Army Medical Corps, to run 
aground opposite the major's door. Among these 
are found real human remnants in whom some visible 
or secret malady persists. 

The e\amining room was contrived in a ground- 
floor room whose furniture had been pushed back in 
a heap. Through the open window came the voice 
of the major, and by furtively craning our necks we 
could just see him at the table, with his tabs and his 
eyeglass. Before him. half-naked indigents stood 
cap m hand, their coats on their arms, or their 
trousers on their feet, pitifully revealing the man 
through the soldier, and trjing to make the most of 
the bleeding cords of their varicose veins, or the arm 
from which a loose and cadaverous bandage hung 
and revealed the hoUow of an obstinate wound 
laying stress on their hernia or the everlasting bron- 



THE SHADOWS 



133 



3 

'i 



chilis beyond their ribs. The major was a good sort, 
and, it licemed, a good doctor. But this time he 
hardly examined the parts that were shown to him, 
and his monotonous verdict took wings into the 
street : 

"Fit to march — good — consultation without 
penalty."' 

" Consultations," wiiich merely send the soldier 
back into the ranks, continued indefinitely. No one 
was exempted from marching. Onre we heard the 
liusky and pitiful voice j)f a simpleton who was 
dressing again raised in recrimination. The doctor 
argued, in a good-natured way, and then said, his 
voice suddenly serious : 

" Sorry, my good man, but I cannot exempt you. 
I have certain instructions, Make an effort You 
can still do it." 

We saw them come nut, one by one, these creatures 
of deformed body and d\.indiing movement, leaning 
on each other as though attached, and mumbling, 
" Nothing can be done, nothing." 

Little Melusson. reserved and wretched, with his 
long red nose between his burning cheek-bones, was 
standing among us in the idle file with which the 
morning seemed vapruely in fellowship. He had not 
been to the insi)ecti- i. but he said : 

" I can carry on to-day still ; but to-morrow I 
shall knock under. To-morrow " 

We paid no attention to Mdlusson's words. Some 
one near us said : 

" Those instructions the major spoke of, they're 
a sign." 



On parade tliat same morning the chief, with liis 
nose on a paper, read out—" By order of the Officer 

' As a precaution against " scrimshanking." a penalty at- 
taches to ' consultations ' which are adjudged uncalled-for. — Tr. 






'34 



FIGHT 



H 
m 

m 



Commatuhng. and then he stammered out mtuc 

obedience. There was a long li^t of them At th.. 

going round. Then, as the surnames came out ai 
t» rv .prc;ad out in a crowd around us the?c w!h 

tteTx^cut^cdlf "^ rr' ^^'"" ♦"^" Pi»-"- o 
all heads ^ '* ' "^'"^ "^ ^^'"'•"^ '»'"'^'"'J. ^"'1 »><»wcd 

rnlh, * *- "'■'^''"*' *''^' t'«)mmandant. whom wc 
rarely saw. mustered the four companies und^r 

StVrv 'T" :'"''' «■■"""''• "^ 'Po^^ to us of the 
mihtary situation, particularly favmirable to us on 

o? t tn':;i,';"?d ' ^tr ^'"^^'r ^"^^' -'-"^ "-^^ 

ut i( nf, ati.i>cd. He made prom sen to im 

t.^rt^u;'r",!:';:^j-'"-''-^'-^'^^>n^usL 

always, do your duty, and be silent. It is so easv Vo 
be silent and to act ! ' ^- ii is so eas> to 

tnmoH ^Z"'"'' "^ ^"'^ '"^^^ ourselves scarce. Re- 

ns^ction T''T-r '^'^"^^^ ^'^^^♦^ '^-^^ to be an 
cao^ain vv "f ^?^P^ ^"d reserve rations by the 
captain. We had hardly time to pat MoJ^ I 
waxed wrotl,, and confidii lu? in^gnato, "„Tr 
mite who was a good audience : " 

just i'vt .-' ''"" °' '"" ""'"^"y "P'^n-we'rc 
^ He shook his fist as he spoke, towards the Town 

himii^s;%„ts"jr,<' "' ^'■°""'^^- '-"«• «* 

.or^♦^*^® a rotten egg. that's how you talk That 
captain and all the red tabs and brass hatf it's not 
them that invented the rules. They're j^gUd^d 



THE SHADOWS 



U5 



J 

« 



machines, machinc'i like you, but not io chc4p. U 
you want to do away with jfisciphne. do away with 
war, my fellow ; that's a sight easier than to make it 
amusing for the private." 

He left Majorat criHtfallcn. and the others as 
well. For my part. I admirtd the jicculiar skill with 
which the anti-militarist could give answers beside 
the mark and yet always seem to \h' iti the right. 

During those days they multiplu-d tin- route 
marches, and the i-xerciscs intendid to let the ofhccr* 
get the men again in hand. These nian<tuvres tired 
us to death, and especially the sham attacks on 
wooded mounds, carried out in the evening among 
bogs and thorn thickets. When we got back, most 
of the men fell heavily asleep just as they had fallen, 
beside their knapsacks, without having the heart to 
eat. 

Right in the nuddle of the night and this paralysed 
slumber, a cry echoed throiigli tluj walls ; 

" Alarm ! Stand to arms ! " 

We were so vvcar\' that the brutal revally seemed 
at first, to the bUnking and rusted men, like the 
shock of a nightmare. Ihen while the cold blew in 
through the open dof)r and we luard the sentries 

•nning through the streets, while the corporals 
lighted the candles avA shook us with their voices, 
we sat up askew, and crouched, and got our things 
ready, and stood up and ftU in, shivering, with 
flabby legs and minds befogged, in the black-hued 
street. 

After the roll-cali and some orders and counter- 
orders, we heard the command, " Forward ! " and 
we left the rest camp as exhausted as when we 
entered it. And thus we set out no one knew where. 

At first it was the same exodus as always. It was 
on the same road that we disappeared; into the 
same great circles of blackness that we sank. 

We came to the shattered ela^^s wr>rks and then 



uft 



L I G ri T 



I 1 



to the quarry, uliich daybreak wa» wa«hing and 
fouling aiul making it* dWWation more complete. 
Fatigue \v.ii gathering darkly uitl.in us and abating 
oir pace. Face-* apiwartd stitt and wan. and as 
though they were »ecn through gratings, We were 
iurroundetl by ciies t '. " I'c.iward f " thrown from 
nil directions iKtween the twilight of the sky and the 
niglit of the earth. It took a greater ellort every 
time to tear »>urselves away from the halts. 

We were not the only regiment in movement in 

these latitudes. The twiUght's depths were full. 

Across the spaces that surrounded the tpiarry, men 

were passing without ceasing and without limits. 

their feet breaking and furiowing the earth like 

pl«»ughs. Arid one guessed that the shadows also 

were full of lunts going as we were to the four corners 

of the unknown. Then the clav and its thousand 

barren ruts, these t orpse-like liekK, declined. Under 

the ashen tints *)f early day. fog-banks of nun 

descended the slopes. From the top I saw nearly 

the whole regiment rolling into the deeps. As once 

of an eveninq in the days gone by. I had a percep- 

tion of the iriultitu(l«'s immensity and the threat of 

its mif,'ht, that might which surpasses all and is 

impelled b\ inviMble mandates, 

We stopped, and drew bn atii again ; and on the 
gloomy edge of this gulf some soldiers e\en amused 
themselves by im ituig Termit. to speak ot militarism 
and anti-militnrism. I saw laces which laughed, 
through their black and wmful patttrn of fatigue, 
around the little man who gesticulated in impotence. 
Then we had to set off again. 

We had nevei passed that way but in the dark, 
and we did not recognise the ^rcnes n* .v that we saw 
Ihem. From the lane which we d( scended, holding 
ourselves back, to g.-xin the trent !i, we saw for the 
first time the desert through which we had so often 
passed— plains and lagoons unlimited. 



i\ 



m 



THK SHADOWS 



I.J7 



The water logged up<'i) country with it* (it^ptriteU 
ptKiU and thctr »inoke-like i^lctn of Uwh, H*emtKl 
nothing but m n-llcttion o( the h^aden doud-ljc- 
»mirt'h<'d sky The walk <A thf trencher, palhd ai 
icc-tloeji, nuirki'd, with their long ^ttnuous t iwitng, 
where they had been slowly tt»rn from the earth by 
the shoveh, These t'mb«H»»ings an«l canals fonn< d u 
cotn{>li( atcd and inraU tilable network, sniudged near 
at hand by bodies and wreckage ; dreary and 
planetary in tiu distance. One could make out the 
lortnal but hazy >takes and po'^ts, aligned in the 
distance to the end of sight ; and herr and there 
the swellings and round ink-blots of the dugouts. 
In some sections of tn'nrji one rould somt-timt s cvm 
descry black lirus, like a dark wall Utwct n other 
walln. and thiM* lines stirred ; they were the work- 
men of destruction, A wlioh* ngion in the nonh. 
on higher ground, w.i^ .1 fmcst llown away, leaving 
only a strandetl bri^lliug of uia!>t>, like a (juay^ide. 
There was thundir in the sky, but it was drizzling 
too. and even the Hashes were grey above that in- 
finite liquefaction in which each regiment was as 
lost as each man. 

We entered the plain and disappeared into the 
trench. The " open crossing " was now pierced by 
a trench, though it was httlc more than begun 
Amid the smacks of the bullets which blurred its 
edges we had to crawl, flat on our bellied ^l^'H? t^'C 
sticky bottom of this gully. The close banks gripped 
and stopped our pack.s, so that we floundered per- 
force like swimmers, to go forward in the earth, 
under the murder in the air. I'or a second the 
anguish and the effort slopped my heart, and in a 
nightmare I saw the cadaverous littleness of my 
grave closing over mc. 

At the end of this torture we got up again, in spite 
of the knapsacks. The last star-shells were sending 
a bloody aurora boreaiis into the morning. Sudden 



i^ 



13» 



M G H T 



wenTunZp?' S'^"^«^' ^"d crests of black smoke 
went up like cypresses. On both sides, in front and 
behind, we heard the fearful suicide of shelir 

Frl' TJ^^^f I" *^' '^"^^'^ ^"*^"<^»- ""til evening 
irom time to time one hoisted the pack ud o^ 

KfH^'^.'^T" ?",f '^ ^^P ^"t« t^e sweat^of the^f^re 

up airkin tn V"'''\ '' •'""^^ "°^ ^^^ been pi ked 
up again m the mechamsm of the march ; and then 

r/nH ^^"/^^". *° ^^^^ "^'^^ the distance The 

SrL'ThouMer r '''' "^^""^ was tumeled 
broken '^°"^^''^-'*'"^P^' ^"^ the bent arm was 

camX'mf ^I^e'w °^ ^^'--^ 

stnn > ,t u. jj f P «y>ng that he was going to 

fntoMAack '1 ."hi "°P' "T' "»■* "' ^ven buft^ 

The mass of the men said nothine Anrf .1,. 
greatness of this silence, this desSnd oppis 

oLTr t J ™ '° ''^ ^""i* animation. He rated 
and lashed us with a vengeance. He hustled^tS 
file m the narrowness of the trench as Kve Jo 

hadrCi^^aet '° ^""'^ "^ *-«^- ^"'^^- ^^ 
thl!"?!!! ";^ ^^"^ **'»■" noise of our trampin? 
w^ hfari'^he^aTl T=*"°" "' °"^ <i'Se"s; 

^^'mrditt4rtt:th"er^ ™'"' ™'-"3; 

Where have you seen, swine, that there can be 

patnotism without hatred ? Do you think one can 

love his own country if he doesn't hate the others' " 

When some one spoke banteringly of mihtarism'- 

for no one. except Termite, who didn'tTount t^^ 

thewordsenously-Marcassin growled Lspa^^^^^^ 
French mihtarism and Pnissian milirarism' 



THE SHADOWS 



139 



they're not the same thing, for one's French and the 
other Prussian ! " 

But we felt that all these wrangles only shocked 
and wearied him. He was instantly and gloomily 
silent. ' 

We were halted to mount guard in a part we had 
never seen before, and for that reason it seemed 
worse than the others to us at first. We had to 
scatter and run up and down the shelterless trench 
all night, to avoid the plunging files of shells. That 
night was but one great crash, and we were strewn 
in the middle of it among black puddles, upon a 
ghostly background of earth. We moved on again 
in the morning, bemused, and the colour of night. 
In front of the column we still heard the cry " For- 
^^rd ! " Then we redoubled the violence of our 
effort, we extorted some little haste from out us ; 
and the soaked and frozen company went on under 
cathedrals of cloud which collapsed in flames 
victims of a fate whoSe name they had no time to 
seek, a fate which only let its force be felt like 
God. 

^^ During the day, and much farther on, they cried 
Halt ! " and the smothered sound of the march 
was silent. From the trench in which we collapsed 
under our packs, while another lot went away our 
looks crawled as far as a railway embankment. 'The 
far end of the loophole-pipe enframed tumble-down 
dwellings and cabins, ruined gardens where the grass 
and the flowers were interred, enclosures masked by 
pahngs. fragments of masonry to which eloquent 
remains of posters even still clung— a corner full of 
artificial details, of human things, of illusions. The 
railway bank was near, and in the network of wire 
stretched between it and us many bodies were fast- 
caught as flies. 

The elements had gradually dissolved those bodies 
and time had worn them out. With their dislocated 






i'f; 



* ; 



140 



LIGHT 



gestures and point-like heads, they were but li^htlv 
hooked to the wire. For whole hours our eyes W 

Of wire, and ful of men who were not on the ground 

than the others, pierced Uke a sieve a hundred times 

heart Another spectre, quite near, had doubtless 
long smcc disintegrated, while held up by his clothes 
At the t,me when the shadow of LL beg^^^^ 

shooVtrd^'-^'^r^' ^ "^"^ ^^°^«' ' -in?w"ich 
shook the desiccated creature, and he emptied him- 
self of a mass of mould and dust. One saw the sk^s 
whirlwmd. dark and disheveUed. in the place where 

h^ r H^^^.^u'" 'J^' '^^^'' ^^^ carried awly by 
the wind and buried in the sky ^ 

Towards the end of the afternoon, the piercing 

^AM^^ °^*^^" ^""^t^ ^^as redoubled. VVewerf 
nddled and battered by the noise. The wariness 
with which we watched the landscape that was 
watching us seemed to exasperate MarLsin 

He pondered an idea ; then came to a sudden 
decision and cned triumphantly. " Look ' " 

.hrSl I ""^^^ *° ^^^ P^^^P^*' stood there upright 
shook his fist at space with the bUnd and siiple 
gesture of the apostle who is offering his examole 
and hjs heart, and shouted : example 

" Death to the Boches ! " 

his^i'elf^^fr^"'" ^'''^"' ^"'^"""g ^th the faith of 

whl^.^"^', "°^ "^^ *.^^* ^^^"'" growled the soldiers 
who were hned up m the trench, gorgonised by the 
extraordinary sight of a living man standing for 
no reason on a front-Une parapet in broad dayLht 

S;M^^^^'"^^^ '"^^y ^^--^ altho^/h it 
"Vvhynot? Look!" 
Marcassin sprang up once more. Lean and erect, 



THE SHADOWS 



141 



he stood like a poplar, and raising both arms straight 
into the air, he yelled : 
" I believe only in the glory of France ! " 
Nothing else was left for him ; he was but a con- 
viction. Hardly had he spoken thus in the teeth of 
the mvisible hurricane, when he opened his arms, 
assumed the shape of a cross against the sky, spun 
round, and fell noisily into the middle of the trench 
and of our cries. 

He had rolled on to his belly. We gathered round 
him. With a jerk he turned on to his back ; his 
arms slackened, and his gaze drowned in his eyes. 
His blood began to spread around him, and wc drew 
our great boots away, that we should not walk on 
that blood. 

" He died like an idiot." said Margat in a chokinc 
voice ; " but, by God, it's fine ! " 

He took off his cap, saluted awkwardly, and stood 
with bowed head. 

" Committing suicide for an idea, it's fine " 
mumbled Vidaine. 

" It's fine, it's fine ! " other voices said. 

And these little words fluttered down like leaves 
and petals on to the body of the great dead soldier. 

" Where's his cap, that he thought so much of ? " 
groaned his orderly Aubeau, after looking in all 
directions. 

" Up there, to be sure ; I'll fetch it," said Termite. 

The comical man went for the relic. He mounted 
the parapet in his turn, coolly, but bending low 
We saw him ferreting about, frail as a poor monkey 
on the terrible crest. At last he put hi. hand on 
the cap and jumped into the trench. A smile 
sparkled in his eyes and in the middle of his beard 
and his brass " cold meat ticket " jmgled on his 
shaggy wrist. 

They took the body away. Two men carried it, 
and a third followed with the cap. One of us said[ 



r 



h. 






urn 

HP 



142 



LIGHT 



The wars over for him ! " and during the dead 
Hn,?«^ ';e<^ess»onal we were mustered, and we con- 
tmued to draw nearer to the unknown. But every- 
thing seemed to recede as fast as we advanced. ev7n 



We wandered five days, six days, in the lines 
almost without sleeping. We stood for 1 Sur for' 
half-mghts and half-days, waiting for ways ti be 
clear that we could not see. Uncefsingly they made 
us go back on our tracks and begin over again. We 
rnounted guard in trenches, we fitted ourselves into 

a^SLt T"^ ^"^ T?^' ^°"^^'' ^^hi<^h stood om 
r^^A ^f ''^ ^T^'^^^ ""' ^«^i"st fire. We were 
condemned to see the same abysses always 

of an nl!i°.v^Vf- """ ^'"^ ^''''^y t° t^^ "tending 
of an old third-hne trench above the ruin of its 

T'^T,"^'"^- ^^ '•^P^red the long skeleton 
so and black, of its timbers. From thft dried up 
drain we besomed the rubbish of equipment of 
petnfied weapons, of rotten clothes and of vSu'als 
of a sort of wreckage of forest and house-fihhv in! 
S"'h l^f ^^^^J ^"^"^^^^y fi^t^y- We wo ked by 
S^fvy da Jjl'i?^ ^^y- ^^^ ^"^y "^^* ^^^ "s ^as the 

slee7 FtZ,° '''T^ "^^"^ ^^"y '^'^Sged us from 
Sleep. Eternal mght covered the earth 

Alter the labour, as soon as daybreak began to 

replace mght with melancholy, we buried oufseVes 

f diin '^i^^ '" '^' ^^P*^ ^^ *^^ ^a^^^s there. Only 
a deadened murmur penetrated to them, but the 
rock moved by reason of the earthquakes When 

start awavTt « """"" ^""^ '^"^PP'^ ' ^^ ^°^^ 
tike offTh. >,^ '"^"^ ' ' '^ ^^^ ^^^bidden to 
Iround us ^'""^^ ^'"^^"« ^^^^" «^ <^artridges 
I heard some one say : 



THE SHADOWS 



MJ 



" In my country, there are fields, and paths, and 
the sea ; nowhere else in the world is there that." 
Among these shades of the caves — an abode of the 
first men, as it seemed— I saw the hand start forth 
of him who existed on the spectacle of the fields 
and the sea, who was trying to show it and to seize 
it ; or I saw, around a vague halo, four card players 
stubbornly bent upon finding again something of an 
ancient and peaceful attachment upon the faces of 
the cards ; or I saw Margat flourish a Sociahst paper 
that had fallen from Termite's pocket, and burst 
into laughter at the censored blanks it contained. 
And M.)jorat raged against life, caressed his reserve 
bottle with his hps till out of breath, and then, 
appeased and his mouth dripping, said it was the 
only way to alleviate his imprisonment. Then sleep 
slew words and gestures and thoughts. I kept re- 
peating some phrase to myself, trying in vain to 
understand it ; and sleep submerged me, ancestral 
sleep, so dreary and so deep that it seems there has 
only and ever been one long lone sleep here on 
earth, above which our few actions float, and which 
ever returns to fill the flesh of man with night. 

Forward ! Our nights are torn from us in lots. 
The bodies invaded by caressing poison, and even 
by confidences and apparitions, shake themselves 
and stand up again. We extricate ourselves from 
the hole, and emerge from the density of buried 
breath ; stumbling we climb into icy space, odour- 
less, infinite space. The oscillation of the march, 
assailed on both sides by the trench, brings brief and 
paltry halts, in which we recline against the walls, 
or cast ourselves on them. We embrace the earth, 
since nothing else is left us to embrace. 

Then Movement seizes us again. Metrified by 
regular jolts, by the shock of each step, by our 
prisoned breathing, it loosens its hold no more, but 
becomes incarnate in us. It sets one small word 



il^ 



N" 






144 



LIGHT 



resounding in our heads, between our teeth—" For- 
ward ! "—longer, more infinite than the uproar of 
the shells. It sets us making, towards the east or 
towards the north, bounds which are days and nights 
in length. It turns us into a chain which rolls along 
with a sound of steel— the metallic hammering of 
rifle, bayonet, cartridges, and of the tin cup which 
shines on the dark masses hke a bolt. Wheels, 
gearing, machinery ! One sees hfe and the reality 
of things striking and consuming and forging each 
other. 

We knew well enough that we were going towards 
some tragedy that the chiefs knew of; but the 
tragedy wa^ above all in the going there. 



We changed country. We left the trenches and 
climbed out upon the earth — along a great incline 
which hid the enemy horizon from us and protected 
us against him. The blackening dampness turned 
the cold into a thing, and laid frozen shudders on 
us. A pestilence surrounded us, wide and vague ; 
and sometimes lines of pale crosses alongside our 
march spelled out death in a more precise way. 

It was our tenth night ; it was at the end of all 
our nights, and it seemed greater than they. The 
distances groaned, roared, and growled, and would 
sometimes abruptly define the crest of the incline 
among the winding-sheets of the mists. The inter- 
mittent flutters of light showed me the soldier who 
marched in front of me. My eyes resting in fixity 
on him, discovered his sheep-skin coat, his waist- 
belt straining at the shoulder-straps, dragged by the 
metal-packed cartridge pouches, by the bayonet, by 
the trench-tool ; his round bags, pushed backwards ; 
his swathed and hooded rifle ; his knapsack, packed 
lengthways so as not to give a handle to the earth 
which goes by on either side; the blanket, the 



THE SHADOWS 



145 



quilt, the tentcloth, folded accordion-wise on the 
top of each other, and the whole surmounted by the 
mess-tin, ringing like a mournful bell, higher than 
his head. What a huge, heavy, and mighty mass the 
armed soldier is, near at hand and when one is 
looking at nothing else ! 

Once, in consequence of a command badly given 
or badly understood, the company wavered, flowed 
back, and pawed the ground in disorder on the 
declivity. Fifty men, who were all alike by reason 
of their sheep-skins, ran here and there and one by 
one — a vague collection of evasive men, small and 
frail, not knowing what to do, while non-coms, ran 
round them, abused and gathered them. Order 
began again, and against the whitish and bluish 
sheets spread by the star-shells I saw the pendulums 
of the step once more fall into line under the long 
body of shadows. 



During the night there was a distribution of 
brandy. By the light of lanterns we saw the cups 
held out, shaking and gleaming. The libation drew 
from our entrails a moment of delight and uplifting. 
The liquid's fierce flow awoke deep impulses, re- 
stored the martial mien to us. and made us grassy 
our rifles with a victorious desire to kill. 

But the night was longer than that dream. Soon, 
the kind of goddess superposed on our shadows left 
our hands and our heads, and that thrill of glory 
was of no use. 

Indeed, its memory filled our hearts with a sort 
of bitterness : 

" You see, there's no trenches anywhere about 
here," grumbled the men. 

" And why are there no trenches ? " said a wrong- 
headed man ; " why, it's because they don't care a 
damn for soldiers' lives." 



I4<> LIGHT 

" Fathead ! " the Cf)rporal interrupted ; " what's 
the good of trenches behind, if there's one in front, 
fathead ! 



" Halt ! " 

We saw the Divisional Staff go by in the beam of 
a searchlight. In that valley of night it might have 
been a pn, ission of princes rising from a subter- 
ranean palace. On cuffs and sleeves and collars 
badges wagged and shone ; golden aureoles en- 
circled the heads of this group of apparitions. 

The flaslung made us start and awoke us forcibly 
as It did the night. 

The men had been pressed back upon the side of 
the sunken hollow to clear the way and they 
watched, blended with the solidity of the dark. 
Each great person in his turn pierced the fan of 
moted sunshine, and each was lighted up for some 
paces. Hidden and abashed, the shadow-soldiers 
began to speak in very low voices of those who went 
by them like torches. 

They who passed first, guiding the Staff, were the 
company and battaUon officers. We knew them 
The quiet comments breathed from the darkness 
were composed either of praises or curses • these 
were good and clear-sighted officers, those were 
tnfiers or skulkers : 
" That's one that's killed some men I " 
'' That's one I'd be killed for ! " 
"The infantry officer who reaUy does aU he 
ought, ' PeUcan declared, " well, he get's killed " 
" Or else he's lucky." 

" There's black and there's white in the com- 
pany officers. At bottom, you know. I say they're 
men. It's just a chance you've got whether you 
tumble on the good or the bad sort. No eood 
worrying. It's just luck." 



THE SHADOWS 



147 



" More's the pity for us." 

The soldier who said that smiled vaguely, lighted 
by a reflection from the chiefs. One read in his 
face an acquiescence which recalled to mc certain 
beautiful smiles I had caught sight of in former days 
on toilers' humble faces. Those who are around me 
arc saying to themselves, " Thus it is written," and 
they think no farther than that, massed all mistily 
in the darkness like vagiic hordes of negroes. 

Then officers went by of whom we did not speak, 
because we did not know them. These unknown 
tab-bearers made a greater impression than the 
others ; and besides, their importance and their 
power were increasing. We saw rows of increasing 
crowns on the caps. Then, the shadow-men were 
silent. The eulogy and the censure addressed to 
those whom we had seen at work had no hold on 
these, and all those minor things faded away. 
These were admired in the lump. 

This superstition made me smile. But the general 
of the division himself appeared in almost sacred 
isolation. The tabs and thunderbolts' and stripes 
of his satellites glittered at a respectful distance only. 
Then it seemed to me that I was face i . with 
Fate itself— the will of this man. In his i^n^sence a 
sort of instinct dazzled me. 

" Packs up ! Forward ! " 

We took back upon our hips and neck the knap- 
sack which has the shape and the weight of a yoke, 
which every minute that falls on it weighs down 
more dourly. The common . larch went on again. 
It filled a great space ; it shook the rocky slopes with 
its weight. In vain I bent my head — I could not 
hear the sound of my own steps, so blended was it 
with the others'. And I repeated obstinately to 
myself that one had to admire the intelligent force 
which sets all this deep mass in movement, which 

» Distinctive badge for Staff officers and others.— Tr. 



I 



148 



LIGHT 



^y§ to us or make* us »ay, " Forward ! " or • It 
hts to be I " or " You shall not know I " which hurls 
the world we are into a whirlpool so ereat that we 
do not even sice the direction of our fall, into pro- 
fundities we cannot sec because they are profound. 
We have need of masters who know all that we do 
not know. 



Our weariness so increased and overflowed that 
It seemed as if we grew bigger at every step I And 
then one no longer thought of fatigue. We had 
forgotten it, as we had forgotten the number of the 
days and even their names. Always, we made one 
step more, always. 

Ah, the infantry soldiers, the pitiful Wandering 
Jews who are always marching I They march 
mathematically, in rows of four numbers, or in file 
m the trenches, four-squared by their iron load, but 
separate, separate. Bent forward they go, almost 
prostrated, trailing theii legs, kicking the &%d. 
Slowly, httle by little, they are wounded b\ he 
length of time, by the incalculable repetiti" of 
movements, by the greatness of things. Th^y are 
borne down by their bones and muscles, by their 
own human weight. At halts of only ten minutes, 
thev sink down. " There's no time to sleep ! "— 
'• No matter." they say, and they go to sleep as 
happy people do. 



Suddenly \ . learned that nothing was going to 
happen ! It was all over for us, and we were going 
to return to the rest camp. We 3aid it over again to 
ourselves. And one evening they said. " We're 
returning," although they did not know, as they 
went on stxaight before them, whether they were 
going forward or backward. 



THE SHADOWS 



149 



In the plafttcr-kiln which we are marcliing past 
there it a bit of candle, and tunk undr*meath it» 
terhh illumination there are four men. Nearer, one 
sees that it is a soldier, guarding three prisoner*. 
The sight of these enemy soUhen in greenish and 
red rags gives us an impression of power, of victwy. 
Son^c voices question them in passing. They arc 
dismayed and stupefied ; the fists tliat prop up their 
yellow cheek-bones protrude triangular caricatures 
of features. Sometimes, at the cut of a frank 
question, they show signs of Ufting their heads, 
and awkwardly try to give vent to an answer. 

" What's he say, that chap ? " they asked 
Sergeant MilUer. 

" He says the war's none of their fault ; it's the 
big people's." 

" Tlic swine I " grunts Margat. 

We climb a hill, and go down the other side of 
it. Meandering, vc steer towards the infernal 
glimmers down yonder. At the foot of the hill we 
stop. There ought to be a clear view, but it is 
evening— because of the bad weather and because 
the sky is full of black things and of chemical clouds 
with unnatural colours. Storm is blended with war. 
Above the fierce and furious cry of the shells. I 
' eard in domination over all the peaceful boom of 
thunder. 

They plant us in subterranean files, facing a wide 
plain of gentle gradient which dips from the horizon 
towards us, a plain with a roUing jumble of thorn- 
brakes and trees, which the gale is seizing by the 
hair. Squalls charged with rain and cold are passing 
over and immensiiymg it ; and there are rivers 
and cataclysms of clamour along the trajectories of 
the shells. Yonder, under the mass of the rust-red 
sky and its sullied flames, there opens a yellow rift 
where trce^ stand forth like gallows. The soil is 
dismembeied. The earth's covering has been blown 



s .1 



■m 



I?- fi 



ISO 

aloft in skb«, . nA 
white— butchery, 

There is m 
one'* baci a 
there and ii at he 



LIGHT 

* heart i» seen, reddiHti and lime- 
far an the eye can see. 

10W but to sit down and recline 
niently as poj«ible. We stay 
»d live a little . we are calm. 



thanks to tl. t i.i< ii!t v' we have of never seeing either 
the past or I, »» 1 !' I . 



CH I : .i XIII 

i 

WHITHER GOi:ST THOU ? 

Bit soon a shiver has seized all of us. 
" Listen I It's stopped ' Listen ! " 

The whistle of bullets has completely ceased, and 
the artillery tlso. The lull is fantastic. The longer 
it lasts the more it pierces us with the uneasiness of 
beasts. We lived in eternal noise ; and now that it 
is hiding, it shakes and rouses us, and would drive 
us mad. 

" What's that ' " 

We rub our eyelids and open wide <>ur eyes. We 
hoist our heads with no precaution above the 
crumbled paripet. We question each other— 
"D'yousee?" 

No doubt about it ; the shadows are moving along 
the ground wherever one looks. There is no point 
in the distance where they arc not moving. 

Some one says at last : 

" Why. it's the Boches. to be sure ! " 

And then we recognise on the sloping plain the 
immense geographical form of the army that is 
coming upon us I 



VVHI THICK GOEST THOU? 151 

Behind and in front of «ih t(»gt'tlier a terrible 
crackle bursits forth and maki-* vMnhrr captive?* of 
u« in the dt'ptli of a valhv c»f |!,un«s -(lames whii h 
iiiuniinatc tli«- plain of men rn tithing over the plain 
They reveal them afar, in incilnilahle number, with 
the fir>>t ranks detaching themselve«i, wavering a 
linle, and forming against the chalky soil a scrie* of 
points md lines like iwjmcthing written ! 

Cdoomy stupefaction makes us dumb in face of 
that living immensity Then we under<*tand that 
tliis host whose fountain-head i^ out of sight is Iwing 
frightfully cannonadtn^l by our 75's ; the shells set 
off behind us and arrive in front of us. In the middle 
of the IJUiputian ranks the giant smoke-clouds leap 
hke hellish g<Kls. We see the flashes of the shells 
which are entering that flesh scattered over the earth 
It i^ smashed and burned entirely in places, and that 
nation advances like a brasier. 

Without a stop it overflows towards us. Con- 
tinually the horizon produces new waves. We hear 
a vast and gentle murmur rise. With their tearing 
liights and their dull glimmers they resemble in the 
distance a whole town making festival in the evening. 

We can do nothing against the magnitude of that 
attack, the greatness of that sum total. When a 
gun has fired short, we see more clearly the littleness 
of each shot. Fire and steel are drowned in all that 
Ufe ; it closes up and reforms like the sea. 

" Rapid fire ? " 

We fire desperately. But wc have not many cart- 
ridges. Since we came into the first line they have 
ceased to inspect our load of ammunition ; and 
many men, especially these last days, have got rid 
of a part of the burden which bruises liips and belly 
and tears away the skin. They who are coming do 
not fire ; and above the long burning thicket of our 
line one ran ^ee tlnnrs still flowing from tlie east. 
They are closely massed in ranks. One would say 






152 



LIGHT 



that they clung to each other as though welded 

They are not using their rifles. Their only weapon 

js the infinity of their number. They are coming to 

bury us under their feet. 
Suddenly a shift in the wind brings us the smell 

of ether. The divisions advancing on us are drunk ! 

We declare it. we teU it to ourselves frantically 
" They're on fire ! They're on fire ! " cries the 

trembling voice of the man beside me. whose 

shoulders are shaken by the shots he is hurUng 

They draw near. They are Ughted from below 
along the descent by the flashing footlights of our 
fire ; they grow bigger, and already we can make 
out the forms of soldiers. They are at the same time 
in order and m disorder. Their outUnes are rigid 
and one divines faces of stone. Their rifles are slune' 
and they have nothing in their hands. They conie 
on hke sleep-walkers, only knowing how to put one 
foot before the other— ?nd surely they are singing 
Yonder, m the bulk of the invasion, the guns con- 
tinue to destroy whole waUs and whole structures 
of hfe at vjill. On the edges of it we can clearly see 
isolated silhouettes and groups as they faU, with an 
extended hne of figures like torchlights 

Now they are there, fifty paces away, breathing 
their ether into our faces. We do not know what to 
do. We have no more cartridges. We fix bayonets, 
our ears filled with that endless undefined murmu^ 
which comes from their mouths and the hollow 
rolhng of the flood that marches. 

A shout spread? behind us : 

" Orders to fall back ! " 

We bow down, and evacuate the trench by open- 
ings at the back. There are not a lot of us. we who 
thought we were so many. The trench is soon 
empty, and we chmb the hill that we descended in 

!;n^'?^,■^^f ""V"^^'^^ our 75's. which are in 
hnes bchmd the ndge, and still thundering We 



f 



WHITHER GOEST THOU? 153 

climb at a venture, in the open, by vague paths and 
tracks of mud ; there are no trenches. During the 
grey ascent — it is a little clearer than a while ago— 
they do not fire on us. If they fired on us, we should 
be killed. We climb in flagging jumps, in jerks, 
pounded by the panting of the following waves that 
push us before them, closely beset by their clatter- 
ing, nor turning round to look again. We hoist 
ourselves up the trembling flanks of the volcano 
that clamours up yonder. Along with us are emptied 
batteries also climbing, and horses and clouds of 
steam and all the horror of modem war. Each man 
pushes this retreat on and is pushed by it ; and as 
our panting becomes one long voice, we go up and 
up, baffled by our own weight which tries to fall 
back, deformed by our knapsacks, bent and silent 
as beasts. 

From the summit we see the trembling inunda- 
tion, murmuring and cor -used, filling the trenches 
we have just left, and seeming already to overflow 
them. But our eyes and ears are violent ly monopo- 
lised by the two batteries between which we are pass- 
ing ; they are firing into the infinity of the attackers, 
and each shot plunges into Ufe. Never have I been 
so affected by the harrowing sight of artillery fire. 
The tubes bark and scream in crashes that can hardly 
be borne ; they go and come on their brakes in 
starts of fantastic distinctness and violence. 

In the hollows where the batteries lie hid, in the 
middle of a fan-shaped phosphorescence, we see the 
silhouettes of the gunners as they thrust in the shells. 
Every time they manoeuvre the breeches, their 
chests and arms are scorched by a tawny reflection. 
They are like the implacable workers of a blast- 
furnace ; the breeches are reddened by the heat of 
the explosions, the steel of the guns is on fire in the 
evening. 

For some minutes now they have fired more 



? 1 



'54 



LIGHT 



slowly-as if they were becoming exhausted. A 
nnl f^'t^*?"* «^;°ts-the batteries fire no more ; and 
now that the salvoes are extinguished, we see the fire 
m tne steel go out. 

In the abysmal silence we hear a gunner groan • 
There's no more shell." 6 «" • 

The shadow of twilight resumes its place in the 
sky— henceforward empty. It grows cold. There 
IS a mysterious and terrible mourning. Around me 
fnr"hS"f jT^*^i\°^f ""^y- ^'•e g'-«ans and gasps 
eves ^nH Vi^^'^'^l^^'^'^^'^^ disappear, stupefied 
fTmft^ J^ T'i'''^'^?^ ""^^ ^^° ^Pe the sweat 
from their foreheads. The order to retirVis repeated, 
in a tone tha,t gnpes us-one would call it a cry of 

hn^'^'.'nHlK'''' '' 5 '°"^!!''^ ^"^ ^^i^^ted tramp- 
ling . and then we descend, we go away the way we 
came, and the host follows itself heavily and makes 
more steps into the gulf. ^ 



When we have gone again down the slope of the 
hiU we find ourselves once more in the bottom of a 
U' f f ^t^^^height begins. Before ascending 

should 2 *S '^^:^/'^'^' b"t ready to set off again 
should the flood-tide appear on the ridge yonder. 
We find ourselves m the middle of grassy expanses 
without trenches or defence, and wl are astonished 
not to see the supports. We are in the midst of a 
sort of absence. 

hi^t^ 1* ^7u ^^7 ^""^ ^^^'^ ' ^^d some one with 
his forehead bowed almost to his knees, translating 
the common thought, says : * 

"It's none of our fault." 

on^l' ^.^"tfnant goes up to the man. puts his hand 

on his shoulder, and says gently : 

'' No, my lads, it's none of your fault." 

Just then some sections join us who say " We're 

the rear-guard." And some add that the two bat- 



WHITHER GOEST THOU? 155 

teries of 75's up yonder are already captured. A 
whistle rings out — " Come, march ! " 

We continue the retreat. There are two battalions 
of us in all— no soldier in front of us, no French 
soldier behind us. I have neighbours who are un- 
known to me. motley men, routed and stupefied, 
artillery and engineers ; unknown men who come 
and go away, who seem to be born and seem to 
die. 

At one time we get a glimpse of some confusion 
in the orders from above. A Staff officer, issuing 
from no one knew where, throws himself in front of 
us, bars our way, and questions us in a tragic 
voice : 

" What are you miserable men doing ? Are you 
running away ? Forward in the name of France ! 
I call upon you to return. Forward ! " 

The soldiers, who would never have thought of 
retiring without orders, are stunned, and can make 
nothing of it : 

" We're going back because they told us to go 
back." 

But they obey. They turn right - about - face. 
Some of them have already begun to march forward, 
and they call to their comrades : 

" Hey, there ! This way, it seems ! " 

But the order to retire returns definitely, and we 
obey once more, fuming against those who do not 
know what they say ; and the ebb carries away with 
it the officer v/ho shouted amiss. 

The march speeds up, it becomes precipitate and 
haggard. We are swept along by an impetuosity 
that we submit to without knowing whence it comes. 
We begin the ascent of the second hill which appears 
in the fallen night a mountain. 

When fairly on it we hear round us, on all sides 
and quite close, a terrible pit-pat, and the long low 
hiss of mown grass. There is a crackling afar in the 



III 



136 



LU .IT 



sky, and they who glance back fnr a »*- j • . 
awesome stonn see the HnnH,, -^ ^°"** *" ^^^ 
horizuntalJyTlt Lans th^t^fh"^"' "^^'^ ^'^ 
mounted machine-g^ns "n the ummi/^T^ ^^^^ 

heart-rending voice : "'"""'"' ""^^ '" > dear and 
"Good-bye, my lads I " 

su^to'^'JJilSIL""' "' '^ '"^"i "-y "y 'he 

other^Sd^and Ue"lTh/° " '^" ''''^ <'°™ 'he 
one asks.'" Z LTcnam^""'"' '" ^''''^*- ^ome 
He's dead." 

bye toii r^ "" '°^'^"' " *"'' how he said good- 

We breathe a little now Wi- Ar. r,^t .t- ■ 
more unless it be that ware - i»?. ' '5^ f"^ 
lying down ' " '**' "^e^, at last 

stal^Tf SS^^'r"? '■ V^^^tre the 

^r^oSS^3--='t- 

maUet blows. *" "°"*' <•' P'<^''S ^fld oi 

soJ&g^IU'°P^ttiV^fr'"'«. ?nd are con- 
'rhe^d-^^S^^S^^^i 

^furl-ty-rlaSi---^-^^^^^ 

Margat refle-.. shakes his head, and says : 



WHITHER GOEST THOU? 157 

we hrd'^wTri' ''"' '^'PP^' ^'^"^ j"^* "^-- B"t 

the S"^,f ;?!^"«-S"n^' too ! But where are they. 

We have a distinct feeHng that there has been an 

strThe^i""?" " ^''^ coimanr Wan off" A 
nff Ir \?*"/°^''^"™^°*^ we'-e not there ; thev had 
^ns tHat t '"PP"'*^- '^^^^ -^^^ not enough 

munition in h' ""'y' '^^^ *"^"«^ ^^^^^T am- 
munition , with our own eyes we had seen two bat- 

oullnT^ln'' ^-^t-^tio^n-they had notThou'gh 
01 sfteUs. In a wide stretch of country as far aq nn^ 
could see. there were no defence workT.' no renches 
they had not thought of trenches. ' 

solie'rs '"'" *° '^' '°"^"^°" 'y^ °f common 

cWef!^^* '"'"^'^ """ ^° ^ " '^y' °^^ °^ '^s • " it's the 



We do not know where we are 

We have marched all night. More wearine^^ 

hiat '"fivTif '^^^-^vh^WL^li:^^ 

fnnnH* ^^ ^o^owi^g the bed of a vaUey we have 
found trenches again, and then men. These solavld 
and squelched alleys, with their fat and sinW 

STocLe^l' ^T "'^^!^ ^°* "^^ limbs, flow ^ntf 
wider pockets where activity prevails-battaUon 
t^r^' °/i^««^'"g-stations. About midnight we see 
orfffi*^ ^"^^?i^"^ «f ^ d"g-out's ha/open door' 

Smnn i °"^ '="^'' They're lucky ! " The 
company officers are exposed to danger as we are 
but only m attacks and reUefs. W^ suffeT long' 



If; 



If 



I't 



158 



LIGHT 



They have neither the vigil at the loophole, nor the 
knapsack, nor the fatigues. What always lasts is 
greater. ^ 

And now the walls of flabby flagstones and the 
open-mouthed caves have begun again. Morning 
rises, long and narrow as our lot. We reach a busy 
trench-crossing. A stench catches my tliroat— some 
cesspool mto which these streets suspended in the 
earth empty their sewage? No. we see rows of 
stretchers, each one swollen. There is a tent there 
of grey canvas, which Haps like a flag, and on its 
fluttenng wall the dawn lights up a bloody cross 



Sometimes, when we are high enough for our eyes 
to unbury themselves I can dimly see some geo- 
njetncal lines, so confused, so desolated by distance 
that I do not know if it is our country or the other ' 
even when one sees he does not know. Our looks 
are worn away in looking. We do not see. we are 
powerless to people the world. We all have nothing 
m common but eyes of evening and a soul of night 

And always, always, in these trenches whose walls 
run down like waves, with their stale stinks of 
chlonne and sulphur, chains of soldiers go forward 
endlessly, towing each other. They go as quickly 
as they can. as if the walls were going to close upon 
them. They are bowed as if they were always climb- 
mg, wholly dark under the colossal packs which they 
carry without stopping, from one place to another 
place, as they might rocks in hell. From minute to 
minute we are filUng the places of the obUterated 
hosts who have passed this way Uke the wind or 
have stayed here like the earth 

We halt in a funnel. We lean our backs against 
the walls, resting the packs on the projections which 
bnstlft from them. But we examine these things 
coming out of the earth, and we smell that they are 



WHITHER GOEST THOU? 15c, 

knees elbows and heads. They were interred there 

TJ^'^'iAf *^' ^""^'"^ ^^>'^ ^^« disinterring 
them At the spot where I am. from which I have 
roughly and heavily recoiled with all my armoury 
a foot comes out from a subterranean body, and 
protrudes. I try to put it out of the way. bil it is 
strongly encrusted. One would have to break the 
corpse of steel to make it disappear. I look at the 
morsel of mortality. My thoughts, and I cannot 
♦K^ I^'u'"". ^"""^^ted by the horizontal body that 

IndZ^ "^r '• /^'>' ^^ '"*" '^'^ ^''■"""d with it. 
and mou d a shape for it. Its face-what is the look 
which rots crushed in the dark depth of the earth at 

ilo Tk'' ^ ""^ 'S""^*"" • A^' °"e catches sight of 
;vhat there is under the battlefields ! Everywhere 
m the spacious wall there are limbs, and black and 
nriuddy gestures. It is a sepulchral sculptor's great 

haughtily before our eyes. It is the portal of the 
earth s mtenor ; yes, it is the gate of heU. 



rni 



In order to get there. I slept as I marched ; and 
now I have an illusion that I am hidden in this Uttle 
cave, cooped up against the curve of the roof I am 
no more than this gentle cry of the flesh-Sleep 1 
A5. 1 begin to doze and people myself with dreams, a 

Z^X ♦r? uu- ""^ i' ""^'■"^ed. and he ransacks us 
with the stabbing white point of his flash-lamp. It 
IS the colonel's batman. He says to our adjutant 
as soon as he finds him : j"i«i"i. 

" Six fatigue men wanted." 

The adjutant's bulk rises and yawns 

R^^nc i°V"t' ^!?^"'^' .^^^S^^^' Termite. Paulin, 
Kemus ! he orders as he goes to sleep again. 

We emerge from the cave ; and more slowly, from 
our drowsiness. We find ourselves standing in a 
village street. But as soon as we touch the open air 



m 



% 



i6o 



LIGHT 



dazzling roart precede and follow us, mere handful 
of men that we are, abruptly revealing us to each 
other. \Vc hurl ourselves like a pack of hounds into 
the first door or the first gaping hole, and there are 
some who cry - " We are marked I We're given 
away I " * 

After the porterage fatigue we go back. I settle 
myself in my comer, heavier, more exhausted, more 
buried in the bottom of everything. I was begin- 
ning to sleep, to go away from myself, lulled by a 
voice which sought in vain the number of the days 
we had been on the move, and was repeating the 
names of the nights— Thursday, Friday, Saturday— 
when the rhan with the pointed light returns, de- 
mands a gang, and I set off with the others. It is 
so again for a third time. As soon as we are outside, 
the night, which seems to lie in wait for us, sends us 
a squall, with its thunderous destruction of space ; 
it scatters us ; then we are drawn together and joined 
up. We carry thick planks, two by two ; and then 
piles of sacks which blind the bearers with a plastery 
dust, and make them reel like masts. 

Then the last time, the most terrible, it was wire. 
Each of us takes into his hands a great hoop of coiled 
wire, as tall as ourselves, and weigMng over sixty 
pounds. When one carries it, the supple wheel 
stretches out like an animal ; it is set dancing by 
the least movement, it works into the flesh of the 
shoulder, and strikes one's feet. Mine tries to cling 
to me and pull me up and throw me to the ground. 
With this maliga-^-ntly heavy thing, animated wit . 
barbarous and powerful movement, I cross the min . 
of a railway station, all stones and beams. We 
clamber up an embankment which slips away and 
avoids us, we drag and push the rebellious and im- 
placable burden. It cannot be reached, that reced- 
ing height. But we reach it, all the same. 
Ah, I am a normal man ! I cling to life, and I 



4 




WHITHER GOEST THOU? i6x 

have the consciousness of duty. But at that moment, 
I called from the bottom of my heart for the bullet 
which would have delivered me from life. 

We return, with empty hands, in a sort of sinister 
comfort. I remember, as we came in, a neighbour 
said to me — or to some one else : 

" Sheets of corrugated iron are worse." 

The fatigues have to be stopped at dawn, although 
the engineers protest against the masses of stores 
which uselessly fill the depot. We sleep from six to 
seven in the morning. In the last traces of night we 
emigrate from the cave, blinking like owls. 

" Wher-: s the juice ? "> we ask. 

There is none. The cooks are not there, nor the 
mess people. And they reply : 

" Forward ! " 

In the dull and palUd morning, on the approaches 
to a village, there appear gardens, which no longer 
have human shape. Instead of cultivation there 
are puduxes and mud. All is burned or drowned, 
and the walls scattered like bones everywhere ; and 
we see the mottled and bedaubed shadows of soldiers. 
War befouls the country as it does faces and hearts. 

Our compaiiy gets going, grey and wan. broken 
down by the infamous weariness. We halt in front 
of a hangar. 

" Those that are tired can leave their packs " the 
new sergeant advises ; " they'll find them again 
here," 

" If we're leaving our packs, it means we're going 
to attack." says an ancient. 

He says it, but he does not know. 
^ One by one. on the dirty soil of the hangar, the 
xnapsacks fall like bodies. Some men, however, are 
mistrustful, and prefer to keep their packs. Under 
all circumstances there are always exceptions. 

forward ! The same shouts put us again in move- 

» Coffee.— Tr. 



11 



iUri 



I63 



LIGHT 



ment. Forward I Come, get up f Come on, mtrch ! 
Subdue your refractory ftcth ; lift younelvet from 
your slumber m from a coffin, begin yourselves again 
without ceasing, give all that you can give—Jor- 
ward I Forward ! It has to be, It is a higher con- 
cern than yours, a law from above. We do not know 
what it is. We only know the step we make ,• and 
even by day one marches in the night. Besides, 
one cannot help it. The vague thoughts and little 
wishes that we had in the days when we were con- 
cerned with ourselves are ended. There is no way 
now of escaping from the wheels of fate, no way 
now of turning aside from fatigue and cold, disgust 
and pain. Forward f The world's hurricane drives 
straight before them these terribly blind who grope 
with their rifles. 



I 



We have passed through a wood, and then plunged 
again into the earth. We are caught in an enfilading 
fire. It is terrible to pass in broad daylight in these 
communication trenches, at right angles to the lines, 
where one is in view all the way. Some soldiers are 
hit and fall. There are light eddies and brief ob- 
structions in the places where they dive ; and then 
the rest, a moment halted by the barrier, sometimes 
still living, frown in the wide-open direction of 
death, and say : 
" Well, if it's got to be, come on. Get on with it 1 " 
They deliver up their bodies wholly— their warm 
bodies, that the bitter cold and the wind and the 
sightless death touch as with women's hands. In 
these contacts between living beings and force, 
there is something carnal, virginal, divine. 



They have sent me into a listening post. To 
get there I had to worm myself, bent double, 



WHITHER GOES? THOU? 163 

..long a low and obstructed sap. In the first stc];M 
I was careful not to walk on the obstructions, and 
then I had to. and I dared. My foot trembled 
on the hard or supple masses which pcoph^d that 
sap. 

On the edge of the hole—there had been a road 
above it formerly, or perhaps even a market-place — 
the trunk of a tree severed near the ground arose, 
short as a grave-stone. The sight stopped me for a 
moment, and my heart, \* eakened no doubt by my 
physical destitution, kindled with pity for the tree 
become a tomb ! 

Two hours later, I rejoined the section in its pit. 
We abide there, while the c^'nnonade increases. 
The morning goes by, then the afternoon. Then it 
is evening. 

They make us go into a wide dug-out. It appears 
that an attack is developing somewhere. From time 
to time, through a breach contrived between sand- 
bags so decomposed and oozing that they seem to 
have lived, we go out to a little winterly and mourn- 
ful crossing, to look about. We consult the sky to 
determine the tempest's whereabouts. We can 
know nothing. 

The artillery fire dazzles and then chokes up our 
sight. The heavens are making a tumult of blades. 
Monuments of steel break loose and crash above our 
heads. Under the sky, which is dark as with threat 
of deluge, the explosions throw livid sunsliine in all 
directions. From one end to the other of the visible 
world the fields move and descend and dissolve, and 
the immense expanse stumbles and falls bke the 
sea. Towering explosions in the east, a squall in the 
south ; in the zenith a file of bursting shrapnel like 
suspended volcanoes. 

The smoke which goes by, and the hours as well, ' 
darken the inferno. Two or three of us risk our 
faces at the earthen cleft and look out, as much for 



I 



f . 



»64 LIGHT 

the piirpow nt propping oursclvcn against the earth 
a» for nccuig. But wc sec nothing, nothing on the 
infinite expanse which is full of rain and dusk 
nothing but the clouds which tear thcmsclvet and 
blend together in the sky. and the clouds which 
come out of the earth. 

Then, in the slanting rain and the limitless grey, 
we sec a man. one only, who advancen with liis 
bayonet forward, like a sjXTtre. 

We watch this shapeless being, this thing, leaving 
our hnes and going away yonder. 

We only see one—jwhaps that is the shadow of 
another, on his left. 

We do not understand, and then we do. It is the 
end of the attacking wave. 

Wliat can his thoughts be— this man alone in the 
rain as if under a curse, who goes upright away, 
forward, when space is changed into a shrieking 
niachme ? By the light of a cascade of flashes I 
thought I .saw a strange monk-like face. Then I 
saw more clearly— the face of an ordinary man. 
muffled in a comforter. 

" It's a chap of the 150th, not the 129th." stam- 
mers a voice by my side. 

We do not know, except that it is the end of the 
attacking wave. 

When he has disapjjeared among the eddies 
another follows him at a distance, and then another! 
Jhey pass by. separate and solitary, delegates of 
death, sacrificers and sacriliced. Their great-coats 
fly wide. And we, we press close to each other in 
our comer of night ; we push, and hoist ourselves 
with our rusted muscles, to see that void and those 
great scattered soldiers. 

We return to the shelter, which is plunged in 
darkness. The motor-cyclist's voice obtrudes itself, _ 

to the point that we tliink we caii see iiis black M 

armour. He is describing the " carryings-on " at 



I 



WHITHER GO EST THOU? 165 

IV)rdcaux, in SeptcmWr, when the Government 
wa% there. He tells oJ the fcHtivities. the orgies, the 
expenditure, and there i» almost a tone of pride in 
the pcxjr creature's voice an he recall* so many 
pompous pageants all at once. 

But the unroar outside silencc-t us. Our (unk-holc 
trembles and cracks. It k the barra-. the barrage 
wliich those whom we saw have gon. in ft|^ht. hand 
to hand. A tfiunderbolt falls just ;it the opening, it 
casts a bright light on all of us. and 1 veals the last 
emotion of all. the Mui that all was ended ! One 
man is grimacing like a malcf i tor caught in »he 
act ; another is opening stranxc Ji^iujH.ointeti ,. ,. h 
another is swinging his doleful hea'l. on, laved by 
the love of sleep; and another, s'i-i.uit-ij wi h his 
head in his hands, makes a lurid ent iiu'' tuotit \V^e 
have seen each other— upright, sitting or cru.ilied 
—in the second of broad daylight which came 
into the bowtjs of the cartii to resurrect our 
darkness. 

In a moment when the guns chance to take breath, 
a voice at the door-hole calls us : 
" Forward I " 

" We shall be staying there, this time over ! " 
growl the men. 

They say this, but they do not know it, We go 
out into a chaos of crashes and Jlamcs. Has the 
trench disappeared ? 

" You'd better fi.x bayonets," shouts the sergeant ; 
' come, get 'em on." We go down, we go up, we 
mark time, we go forward in the tempest, like the 
others. Columns of fire rise around us. Death 
Itself la.shes our faces with its volleys of earth, its 
roars and blasts and red reflections. We see well 
enough that we are already hardly alive, but we have 
no time to understand it. The hurricane impels us 
by the shoulders, Uke wings, makes our feet lag in 
obstructions and tumble over them. Our breathing 



!| 



iiii! 



i66 



LIGHT 



is arrested, our thoughts are slain in our bewildered 
heads ; and yet there are some seconds in which 
each one sees himself wholly. 

" Get your heads down— kneel I " 

We stop and go on our knees. A star-shell pierces 
us with Its intolerable gaze. 

By its Ught we see. a few steps in front of us, a 
gaping trench. We were going to fallinto it. It is 
motionless and empty— no. it is occupied— ves it 
is empty. It is full of a file of slain watchers The 
row of men was no doubt starting out of the earth 
when the shell burst in their faces ; and by the poised 
white rays we see that the blast has staved them in 
has taken kway the Hesh ; and above the level of 
the monstrous battlefield there is left of them only 
some fearfully distorted heads. One is broken and 
blurred ; one emerges Uke a peak, a good half of it 
fallen into nothing. At the end of the row the 
ravages have been less, and only the eyes are smitten. 
The hollow orbits in those marble heads look out- 
wards with dried darkness. The deep and obscure 
face-wounds have the look of caverns and funnels, 
of the shadows in the moon ; and stars of mud arc 
clapped on the faces in the place where eyes once 
shone. 

pur strides have passed that trench. We go more 
quickly and trouble no more now about the star- 
shells, which among us who know nothing, sav "I 
know and "I will." All is changed, all habitsand 
laws. We march exposed, upright, through the 
open fields. Then I suddenly understand what they 
haA^e hidden from us up to the last moment— we are 
attacking ! 

Yes. the counter-attack has begun without ou; 
knowng it I apply myself to following the others 
May I not be killed like the others ; may I be saved 
Uke the others ! But if I am killed, so much the 
worse. 



WHITHER GOEST THOU? 167 

I bear myself forward. My eyes are open but I 
look at nothing ; confused pictures are printed on 
my staring eyes. The men around me form strange 
surges : shouts cross each other or descend. Upon 
the fantastic walls of nights the shots make flicks 
and flashes. Earth and sky are crowded with ap- 
paritions ; and the golden lace of burning stakes is 
unfolding. 

A man is in front of me, a man whose head is 
wrapped in linen. 

He is coming from the opposite direction. He is 
coming from the other country ! He was seeking me, 
and I was seeking him. He is quite near — suddenly 
he is upon me. Ah, he hesitates and falters ! He 
seems to smile through curls of smoke. 

The fear that he is killing me or escaping me — I 
do not know which — makes me throw out a des- 
perate effort. Opening my hands and letting the 
rifle go, I seize him. My fingers are buried in his 
shoulder, in his neck, and I find again, with over- 
flowing exultation, the eternal form of the human 
frame. I hold him by the neck with all my strength 
and with more than all my strength, and we quiver 
with my quivering. 

He had not the idea of dropping his rifle so qrickly 
as I. He yields and sinks. I cling to him as if it 
were salvation. The words in his throat make a 
lifeless noise. He brandishes a hand wliich has only 
three fingers — I saw it clearly outlined against the 
clouds like a fork. 

Just as he totters in my arms, resisting death, a 
thunderous blow strikes him in the back. His arms 
drop, and his head also, which is violently doubled 
back, but his body is hurled against me Uke a pro- 
jectile, like a superhuman blast. 

I have rolled on the ground ; I get up, and while 
I.am hastily trying to find myself again I feel a light 
blow in tlie waist. What is it ? I walk forward, 









z68 



LIGHT 



Dat Zv 1^**" .my empty hands. I see the others 
pass, they go by m front of me. /. I advance no 
more. Suddenly I fall to the ground *°'^*"^' ""^ 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE RUINS 

I FALL on my knees, and then full length. I do what 
so many others have done. 
I am alone on the earth, face to face with the mud 

nf 1 ''T^?'^ r T' "'°''^- "^^ frightful searching 
of the shells ahghts around me. The hoarse hurri? 
cane which does not know me is yet trying to find 
the place wl.ore I am ! j s ^ ii"u 

1, Jij^" *J-^ ^''"t'' ^°^' ^^^y- ^nd its departure is 
heart-rendmg. In spite of all my efforts, the noise 
of the hnng fades and I am alone ; the wind blows 
and I am naked. 

I shall remain nailed to the ground. By cUnrine 
to the earth, and plunging my hands into the depth 
of the swamp as far as the stones. I get my neck 
round a httle to see the enormous burden thlt my 
back supports. No-it is only the immensity on 

My gaze goes crawUng. In front of me there are 
dark thmgs all hnked together, which seem to seize 
or to embrace one another. I look at those hills 
which shut out my horizon and imitate gestures and 
men. The multitude downfallen there imprisons 

Ivfnt^H ""'"'r ^ ^"^ ""^""^ i" by those who are 
lying down, as I was walled in before by those who 

I am not in pain. I am extraordinarily calm ■ I 
am dnink with tranquilhty. Are they dead, all- 
those ? I do not know. The dead are spectres of 






THE RUINS 



x6() 



tlti living, but the living are spectres of the dead. 

Something warm is licking my hand. The black 

mass which overhangs me is trembling. It is a 

foundered horse, whose great body is emptying itself, 

whose blood is flowing like poor touches of » tongue 

on to my hand. I shut my eyes, bemused, and think 

of a bygone merry-making ; and I remember that 

I once saw, at the end of a hunt, against the operatic 

background of a forest, a child-animal whose life 

gushed out amid general delight. 

A voice is speaking beside me. 

No doubt the moon has come out — I cannot see 

as high as the cloud escarpments, as high as the 

sky's opening. But that blenching light is making 

the corpses shine like tombstones. 

I try to find the low voice. There are two bodies, 
one above the other. The one underneath must be 
gigantic— his arms are thrown backward in a 
hurricane gesture ; his stiff dishe\elled hair has 
crowned him with a broken crown. His eyes are 
opaque and glaucous, like two expectorations, and 
his stillness is greater than anything one may dream 
of. On the other the moon's beams are setting points 
and lines a-sparkle, and silvering gold. It is he who 
is talking to me, quietly and without end. But 
although his low voice is that of a friend, his words 
are incoherent. He is mad— I am abandoned by 
him ! No matter, I will drag myself up to him to 
begin with. I look at him again. I shake myself 
and blink my eyes, so as to look better. He wears 
on his body a uniform accursed ! 

Then with a start, and my hand claw- wise, I 
stretch myself towards the gUttering pri2;e to secure 
it. But I cannot go nearer him ; it seems that I no 
longer have a body. He has looked at me. He has 
recognised my uniform, if it is recognisable, and my 
cap, if I have it still. Perhaps he has recognised 
the indelible seal of my race that I carry printed on 



tyo 



LIGHT 



my features. Yes. on my face he has recognised 
that stamp. Something like hatred has blotted out 
the face that I saw dawning so close to me. Our two 
hearts make a desperate effort to hurl ourselves on 
each other. But we can no more strike each other 
than we can separate ourselves. 

But has he seen me ? I cannot say now. He is 
stirred by fever as by the wind ; he is choked with 
blood. He writhes, and that shows me the beaten- 
down wings of his black cloak. 

Close by, some of the wounded have cried out ; 
and farther away one would say they are singing — 
beyond the low stakes so twisted and shrivelled that 
they look as if guillotined. 

He does not know what he is saying. He does not 
even know that he is speaking, that his thoughts 
are coming out. The night is torn into rags by 
sudden bursts ; it fills again at random \\ith clusters 
of flashes ; and his delirium enters into my head. 
He murmurs that logic is a thing of terrible chains, 
and that all things cling together. He utters sen- 
tences from which distinct words spring, like the 
scattered hasty gleams they include in hymns— the 
Bible, history, majesty, folly. Then he shouts : 

" There is nothing in the world but the Empire's 
glory ! " 

His cry shakes some of the motionless reefs. And 
I, like an invincible echo, I cry : 

" There is only the glory of France ! " 

I do not know if I did really cry out, and if our 
words did collide in the night's horror. 

His head is quite bare. His slender neck and bird- 
like profile issue from a fur collar. There are things 
like owls shining on his breast. It seems to me as 
if silence is digging itself into the brains and lungs 
of the dark prisoners who imprison us, and that we 
are Ustening to it. 

He rambles more loudly now, as if he bore a stifling 



THE RUINS 



X7X 



secret ; he calls up multitudes, and still more multi- 
tudes. He is obsessed by multitudes — " Men, men !" 
he says. The soil is caressed by some sounds of 
sighs, terribly soft, by confidences which are inter- 
changed without their wishing it. Now and again 
the sky collapses mto light, and that flash of instan- 
taneous sunshine changes the shape of the plain 
every time, according to its direction. Then does 
the night take all back again athwart the rolling 
echoes. 

" Men ! Men ! " 

" What about them, then ? " says a sudden jeer- 
ing voice which falls Uke a stone. 

" Men must not awake," the shining shadow goes 
on, in dull and hollow tones. 

" Don't worry ! " says the ironical voice, and at 
that moment it terrifies me. 

Several bodies arise on their fists into the dark- 
ness — I see them by their heavy groans- -and look 
around them. 

The shadow talks to himself and rcpeatb his 
insane words : 

" Men must not awake." 

The voice opposite me, capsizing in laughter and 
swollen with a rattle, says again : 

" Don't worry ! " 

Yonder, in the hemisphere of night, comets glide, 
blending their cries of engines and owls w^th their 
flaming entrails. Will the sky ever recover the 
huge peace of the sun and the stainless blue ? 

A Uttle order, a Uttle lucidity, are coming back 
into my mind. Then I begin to think about 
myself. 

Am I going to die, yes or no ? Where can I be 
wounded ? I have managed to look at my hands, 
one by one ; they are not dead, and I saw nothing 
in^their dark trickling. It is extraordinary to be 
made motionless Uke this, without knovsing where 



'7^ LIGHT 

or how I can do no more on earth than Uft mv 

rim. '° '^' "^^ °' '^' ^^^^^ where I have 

Suddenly I am pushed by a movement of the horse 

Z^J'ttr^ ""', ^y^T . ^ ^« *h^t he has turned Ws 
great head aside ; he is mournfully eating grass I 
saw this horse but lately in the niiddle o? fhTregi- 

^Trl ^T^ ^'"^ ^y *h*^ ^h>*« »n his manc-reS- 
ing and whinnying like the true battle-chargers • 
and now broken somewhere, he is silent as the 

d?X T^^f^^y ^'^' ^"^^ ^«^" I recall the red 
deer s httle one. mutilated on its carpet of fresh 
cnmson, and the emotion which I had not on that 
bygone day rises into my throat. Animals are in- 

child and if one wanted to point out hfe's innocence 

child h,^f!' r' "^""m ^^''^ *^ *yP'^y' "«* a httle 
Child, but a horse. My neck gives way I utter a 

groan, and my face gropes upon the ground. 

The ammals start has altered my place and shot 
t^Ln^T^'^'' "T'' '^"^ *° *he man who was 
ThnL f" «*" u' "x"^^"*' ^"^ '^ ^yi°g on his back. 
DaUor .n°H T ^''l^? ^^^ " ™"-°^'« the moon^ 

prlh Si ^ ^^^^ that he is going to die. His words 
are hardly more now than the rustle of wings He 

SSnter .'nT ""^"*f ^^^« things about a Spanish 
^^hl V^ some motionless portraits in the palaces 
-the Escunal. Spain. Europe. Suddenly he is 
repeUing with violence some beings who are in his 

fhl' f ''^°"^' r" ^'■^^"^ers ! " he says. louder than 
the storniy sky where the flames are red as blood 
buder than the falling flashes and the harrowrng 
vnnd. louder than all the night which enshrouds uf 
and yet continues to stone us 

n.S^V'. 'k''^'^ "1^^ ^ ^'""^y ^^hich bares his soul as 
naked is his neck. 



V s--~*s.'CT-.^wr-: 



THE RUINS 



173 




The truth is revolutionary." gasps the nocturnal 
voice Get you gone, you men of truth, you who 
cast disorder among ignorance, you who strew words 
and sow the wind ; you contrivers, begone ! You 
bnng m the reign of men ! But the multitude hates 
you, and mocks you ! " 
He laughs, as if he heard the multitude's laughter 
And around us another burst of convulsive 
laughter grows hugely bigger in the plain's black 
heart : 

" Wot's 'e sayin' now, that chap ? " 

" Let him be. You can see 'e knows more'n 'e 
says. 

" Ah, la, la ! " 

I am so near to him that I alone gather the rest 
of his voice, and h? says to me very quietly • 

'• I have confidence in the abyss of the people." 

And those words stabbed me to the heart and 
dilated my eyes with horror, for it seemed to me 
suddenly, in a flash, that he understood what he 
was saying ! A picture comes to life before my 
eyes— that prince, whom I saw from below, once 
S^?i^ ^l'"^ i" *^^ nightmare of life, lie who loved 
the blood of the chAse. Not far away, a shell turns 
the darkness upside down ; and it seems as if that 
explosion also has considered and shrieked. 

Heavy night is implanted everywhere around us 
My hands are bathed in black blood. On my neck 
and cheeks, rain, which is also black, bleeds 

The funeral procession of silver-friiiged clouds goes 
by once more, and again in a ray of moonlight be- 
silvers the swamp that has sunk us soldiers ; it lavs 
winding-sheets on the prone. 

All at once a sweUing lamentation comes to life 
one faiows not where, and gUdes over the plain • ' 

Help ! Help ! " 

uri! ^T *^^" ; ,P^y'''' "^t coming to look for us ! 
What about it ? 



* Ui 



^vnvns? 



174 



LIGHT 



And I see a »tirring and movement, very gentle. 
as at the bottom of the sea. * 

Amid the glut of noises, upon that still tepid and 
unsubmissive expanse where cold death sits brood- 
ing, that sharp profile has faUen back. The cloak 
IS quivenng. The great and sumptuous bird of prey 
is m the act of taking wing. 

My ears a. fiUed with shouts and cheers, and they 
rsuse a picture of the ranks of horsemen and infant^ 
who are g jing away, upright in the streets and the 
settmg sun. I hear afar the heavy sound of billows 
on rocks— it is the blows of mallets on posts where 
they are settmg up for to-night a new frontier for 
Death s country. 

No, the monotonous sound is not that. It is there 
—that horse which does not cease to bleed. Its 
blood falls on me drop by drop with the regularity 
of a clock, as though all the blood that is filtering 
through the strata of the field and aU the punishment 
of the wounded came to a head in him and through 
him. Ah, it seems that truth goes farther in all 
directions than one thought ! We bend over the 
wrong that animals suffer, for them we whoUy 
understand. ' 

Men, men ! Everywhere the plain has a mangled 
outUne. Below that horizon sometimes blue-black 
and sometunes red-black, the plain is monumental ! 



CHAPTER XV 



AN APPARITION 

I HAVE not changed my place. I open my eyes. 
Have I been sleeping ? I do not know. There is 
tranquil hght now. It is evening or morning. 
My arms alone can tremble. I am enrooted like a 



AN APPARITION 



'75 



distorted bush. My wound ? It is that wliich ghiM 
me to the ground. 

I succeed in raising my face, and the wet waves 
of space assail my eyes. Patiently I pick out of the 
earthy pallor which blends all things some foggy 
shoulders, some cloudy angles of elbows, some 
hand-like lacerations. I discern the still circle which 
encloses me— faces lying on the ground and dirty 
as feet, faces held out to the rain like vases, and 
holding stagnant tears. 

Quite neai . one face is looking sadly at me, as it 
lolls to one side. It is coming out of the bottom of 
the heap, as a wild animal might. Its hair falls 
back like nails. The nose is a triangular hole and a 
little of the whiteness of human marble dots it. 
There are no lips left, and the two rows of teeth show 
up like lettering. The cheeks are sprinkled with 
mouldy traces of beard. This body is only mud and 
stones. This face, in front of my own, is only a 
consummate mirror. 

Water-blackened overcoats cover and clothe the 
whole earth around me. 

I gaze and gaze 

I am frozen by a mass which supports me. My 
elbow sinks into it. It is the horse's belly ; its rigid 
leg obliquely bars the narrow circle from which my 
eyes cannot escape. Ah. it is dead ! It seems to 
me that my breast is empty, yet still there is 
an echo in my heart. What I am looking for 
is life. 

The distant sky is resonant, and each dull shot 
comes and pushes my shoulder. Nearer, some 
shells are thundering heavily. Though I cannot 
see them, I see the tawny reflection that their 
flame spreads abroad, and the sudden darkness 
as well that is hurled by their clouds of excre- 
tion. Other shsdowR go and come on the ground 
about me ; and then I hear in the air the plunge 



f~ 



tip 

m 



nUl 






176 



LIGHT 



of beating wings, and cries so fierce that I feel 
them raniark my head. 



Death is not yet dead everywhere. Some points 
and surfaces still resist and budire and cry out, 
doubtless because it is dawn ; and oncf the wind 
swept away a mufiied bugle-call. There are some 
who still burn with the invisible fire of fover, in 
spite of the frozen periods they have crossed. But 
the cold is working into them. The immobiUty of 
lifeless things is passing into them, and the wind 
empties itself as it goes by. 

Voices are worn away ; looks are soldered to 
their eyes. Wounds are stanched ; they have 
finished. Only the earth and the stones bleed. And 
just then I saw, under the trickling morning, some 
half-open but still tepid dead that steamed, as if 
they were the blackening rubbish-heap of a village. 
I watch that hovering dead breath of the dead. 
The crows are eddying round the naked flesh with 
their flapping banners and their war-cnes. I see 
one which has found some shining rubies on the 
black vein-stone of a foot ; and one which noisily 
draws near to a mouth, as if called by it. Some- 
times a dead man makes a movement, so that he 
will fall lower down. But they will havo no more 
burial than if they were the last men of all. 



There is one upright presence which I catch a 
gHmpse of, so near, so near ; and I want to see it. 
In making the efforc with my elbow on thi horse's 
ballooned body I succeed in altering the direction 
of my head, and of the corridor of my gaze. Then 
all at once I discover a quite new population of 
bronze men in rotten clothes ; and especially, erect 



AN APPARITIOX 



n7 



wJ^.nH *^"*'',» «^ey '>v«r<:"at. lacquered with 
blood ind m«>.ccd by a great hole, round which U 

ftfT tt h T^' 1 ^'^''y """*«" flowers Slowly 
I Uft the burden of my eyes to explore that hole 

Amid the shattered flesh, with its changing colouni 
and a smell so strong that it puts a loa Wme a"t^ 
into my mouth, at the bottom of t^e ^ge X! 
^me crossed bones are black and rusted^ as ro„ 
ban. I can see something, something isolated dark 
and round. I see that it is a heart "'*'''^' ****^''' 
Placed there. too-I do not know how for I 

S' T^e't^r' '""^^«^^-the ai""anJ"h 
nana, ine hand has only three fingers— a fnrk 
Ah. recognise that heart I It is his whori k/ucd 
Prostrate m the mud before him. becau^ of mv 
defeat and my resemblance. I cried out to ^ernan'* 
rv'^fef'^and^r''^ "P^^'""^" m^n.^^Thr^^; 
th!? infi^i? *^ ''T™' "^°^"« ^'n the edges of 

Itirrina tI "^^""^ . ' ^^^ ^"^^^ ^lose to their 
stirnng. Tl y are whitish wonns. and their tai s 
are pomted like stings ; they curve and flatten ou 
sometunes ,n the shape of ai i. and sometime" of a 
hni ' ^'^r^T^^ immobiUty is left beWnd The 
anXre^r^^ " ^^""''^^^ -^° *^- -th ?oJ 

Sves \7itl ^'T""'' ^"^ "^^^^ ^ destroy 
hSrSu a'ttllr^i : ^ed' CO dTtCf u'^dtf 

hke"a c r'esf "? t^[% '' ^' -de^to'oS by t ] 
lue a caress. I think I can see how many seasons 
and memones and beings there Lad to be vonder 
to make up that life-while I remain More Wm 
on a pomt of the plain. Uke a nigh" watcher I 
£ved a Utr^ ^^ ""' ?^^^ breath'ed^M{:'y"t h 

himi'r?hX"^"n"^ST^^^^^ hands fumbL in 
Dlace h; f, , ^^^" ^^ ^, have. lie fills the whole 
place. He is too many things at unce. How can 



tf 



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178 



Lie. HT 



1 



That c^^tablishcd 



there be worlds in the world ^ 
notion would destroy all. 

This perfume oi a tul)ero.se is the breath of ror- 
rupliuu. On the ground. I see crows near me, like 
hens. 

Myself ! I think of myself, of all that I am. 
Myself, my home, my hours ; the past, and the 
future— it was g(jing to be Uke the past ! And at 
that moment I feci, weeping within me and dragging 
itself from some httle bygone trifle, a new and 
tragical . orrow in dying, a hunger to be warm once 
more in the rain and the cold, to enclose myself in 
myself in spite of space, to hold myself back, to 
hve. I called for help, and then lay panting, watching 
the distance in desperate expectation. " Stretcher- 
bearers ! ' I cry. I do not hear myself ; but if only 
the others heard me ! 

Now that I have made that effort, I can do no 
more, and my head lies there at the entrance to 
that world-great wound. 

There is nothing now. 

Yet there is that man. He was laid out like one 
dead. But suddenly, through his shut eyes, he 
smiled. He, no doubt, will come back here on 
earth, and something within me thanks him for 
his miracle. 

And there was that one, too, whom I saw die. 
He raised his hand, which was drowning. Hidden 
in the depths of the others, it was only by that hand 
that he lived, and called, and saw. On one finger 
shone a wedding-ring, and it told me a sort of story. 
When his hand ceased to tremble, and became a 
dead plant with that golden flower, I felt the begin- 
ning of a farewell rise in me like a sob. But there 
are too many of them for one to mourn them all. 
How many of them are there on all this plain? 
How many, how many of them are there in all this 
moment ? Our heart is only made for one heart at 



A\ APPARITION ,-<-, 

a tinio. It wears u.<, out lo l..„k at all Op,, nnv 
say. There are oth.-r.,- but it i= (.nl^• a .aviiu- 
\ ou shall n.4 know : yon shall not know • 
Barronne«;s ami o.kl have desren<lo(l on all the 
body of the earth. X,.thin;T moves anv more 
except the wind that is charpd ui.h rold water.' 
and the shells that are surrounded by inhnity. and 
tl..- crows, and the thought that lolis unmured m 



lhe>- are motionless at last. the\' wiio for ever 
inarched, they to wlioni space was so great ' I see 
their poor hands, their poor legs, their po„r backs 

The shells which bespattered them are ravaging 
another world. They are in the peace eternal. ^ ^ 
All IS accomphshed, all has terminated there It 
IS there, in that circle narrow as a well that* the 
descent into the raging heart of hell was halted 
the descent into slow tortures, into unreleating 
atigue, into the flashing tempest. We came here 
because they told us to come here. We have done 
what they told us to do. I think of the s'mpHdty 
of our reply on the Day of Judgment. ^ 

The gunfire continues. Always, always the shelh 
come, and all those bullets that'are milS'in engt^ 
Hidden behind the horizons, living men unite vvith 
machines and fall furiously on space. They do not 
see their shots. They do not know St they 
are^^doing. " You shall not know ; you shall ,S 

Ko^"L'^"*^u *^^ cannonade is returning, they will 
be figh ing here again. AU these battles spring^from 
themselves and necessitate each other to infinitv!^ 
One single battle is not enough, it is .ot compete; 
here is no satisfaction. Nothing is finished, nothing 
1^ ever finished. Ah, it is only men who die -No 



■i 

M 



liSo 



I 



LIGHT 



vclJ that I do nut understand all the horror in which 
» ani. 



Here IS evening, the time when the fi, .,p is lighted 
up. The honzons of the dark dav, of the dark 
evening, and of the illuminated nightrevolve arcmnd 
my remains as round a pivot. 

chiWren. I am growing fainter and mori soothed ; 
I close my eyes ; I dream of my home. 

\onder, no doubt, they are joining forces to make 
the evemngs tolerable. Marie is there, and some 
other women, getting dinner readv ; the hou^e 
becomes a savour of cooking. I l^ear Marie speak ng 
standing at hrst, then seated at the table.^ I het; 

the cloth a. she takes her place. Then because 
some one is putting a hght to the lamp, having hf"ed 

hut'itT"'i'i, ^''"^^ ^''' "P ''' ^^ -"d ^lo^e h^ 

ward nnd .' ""^'T ^^'^ ^^'^"^^•^^- ^he leans for- 
ward and outspreads her arms ; but for a moment 

and T .fn'"'^'''"' '" "^' ""^^^ "^g^^t- She shivers, 
as T ^ir^ ■ "^T^ '" *^" darkness, she looks afar 
as lam doing. Our eyes have met. It is tiue for 
this night IS hers as much as mine, the same night, 
and distance is not anything palpable or real 

contact '' ^ ^^- ^' '' '^"^' '^''' S^^^t ^1«^^ 
Where am I ? Where is Marie ? What is she 
even .? I do not know. I do not know. I do not 

1 know the wound in my heart ? 

• • • . 

nfTIlt«f^°V?' ""'^ crowning themselves with sheaves 
ot stars. It IS an aviary of fire, a hell of silver and 



AN APPARITION ,g, 

n;:!;'. Ming":;?; r^<i"'"™vr"" "■™"'^'- -"'^ ■" 

is arriWng ! A ,LS ™> , "'P'™^">"al army 
Nearer s.lll, a 'heU K " riU ^'iV ■";,"?;"*'!.■ 
slows ; and amonc „, .ir ,, i , ""«'"■ ""^ 

S"es frightfully™ mc"^ o flj h '\f fr''' ''?'™''s. 

boat. He still hc.Ttl: ^^VZlrdf^V: ■' 
fall contmually, fantastically. imTr^tTfi,^ 



iS. 



Mr. in 



world ; and in that frarturcd Hash I sasv m\sclf 
a^'ain—I tlKai^'lit of mv bowels and my heart 
hurled to the winds-and I heard vnirv^ sayinL' 
again and again - far, far away-" Simun PauJin 
died at the age of thirty-six." 



CHAPTER \VI 

DE FROFl'NDIS t LAMAVI 

I AM dead. I fall, I roll like a broken bird into 
bewilderments of light, into canyons of darkness. 
Vertigo rcsses on my entrails, strangles mc, plunges 
into me. I drop sheer into the void, and mv eaze 
falls faster than I. ^ ^ 

Through the wanton oreath of the depths that 
assail me I see, far below, the seashore dawiang. 
The ghostly strand that I glimpse while I cling to 
my own body is bare, endless, rain-drowned and 
supernaturally mournful. Through the long, heavy 
.'ind concentric mists that the clouds make, my eyes 
go searching. On the shore I see a being who wanders 
alone, veiled to the feet, 'lis a woman. Ah, I am 
one with that woman ! She is weeping. Her tears 
are dropping on the sand where the waves arc 
breaking ! While I am reeUng to infinity, I hold out 
my two heavy arms to her. She fades away as I 
look. "^ 

For a long time there is nothing, nothing but in- 
visible time, and the immense futility of rain on 
the sea. 




What are these flashes of light ? There are 
gleams of flame in my eyes ; a surfeit of light is 



ni: PR or UN I) IS t LA MA VI 



I'^.J 



Hi, 



{- 



cast ovLT me. I can no luiif^.-r ili„g to anvthiriK- 
Fire and watt-r ! ** 

In til'; b.-K'iiunng. there is hattl.- hctween fire and 
water— tl.r \v..rkl revnlviuK h.-.uHon.i,' in tli.- lu.ok.-d 
elaws of Its flames, and the e\|)an>e-, u| wat.-r wh*. h 
It <lnv.s hack in rl-Mid.. At last the wat.r ..hs.u es 
till- whirling spirals ..f the hiinacv. and takes their 
place I ntler the roof cf den>e darkness, tunbered 
with Hashes, there are triumphant duunpour, xvliich 
last a liundred thousand vears. ThDu^'li centuries 
of centuries, fire and water fare carh „th<-r the 
fire, upright, buoyant and leaping ; tlie water, flat 
rrceping, gUding. wich^ning its lines and its surface 
Wlien they t(Mich. is it the water which hisses and 
roars, or is it the fire ? And one sees the reigning 
calm of a radiant plain, a plain of incalculable great- 
ness. The round meteor congeals into shapes and 
continental islands are sculptured by the water's 
boundless hand. 

I am no longer alone and abandoned on the former 
battlefield of the elements. Near this rock, some- 
thing Uke another is taking shape; it stands 
straight as a flame, and moves. This sketch-model 
thinks. It reflects the wide expanse, the past and 
the future ; and at night, on its hill, it is the pedestal 
of the stars. The animal kingdom dawns in ^hat 
upnght thing, the poor upright tlung with a face 
and 1 cry, which hides an internal world, and in 
which a heart obscurely beats. A lone being, a 
heart ! But the heart, in the embryo of the first 
men, beats only for a fear. He whose face has 
appeared above the earth, and who carries his soul 
in chaos, discerns afar shapes like his own, he sees 
the olher—the terrifying outUne which spies and 
roams and turns again, witli the snare of his head. 
Man pursues man to kill him, and woman to wound 
her. He bites that he may eat, he strikes down that 
he may clasp— furtively, in gloomy hollows and 



\ 

ll: 



: i' 



II; 



1R4 



r, I r. H T 



hKlinR-plarcs or in the depths of ri^Ufr, \hhI hanibor 
dark Imv. i. uiithin/L,-- hr l.v.s .u\vh tli.it lu- may 
protr, t u. M.nir (Iisput i cavr, hi. eyt's. Lis breast. 
Ills L»cli\ . and the larosin^' bratu!>, of" his h.-arih 



TIkt.- is a groat cahn ir. n)V environs. 
From place to place, nun havi- gathpied together 
There are ( oinpanies and droves of nun. -.vith watch- 
men. HI the vapcMir^ (.f dawn ; and in the middle 
one makes out the i l.jidren and the women, crowding 
together like fallow deer. To eastward I so^ in the 
sdence (.f a great fresco, the diverging beams of 
morning gleaming, throngh the intervening and 
sombie statues of t'vo hunters. who>e long hair is 
tangled hke briars, and who hold each other's hand 
upnght on the mountain. 

Men ha\e gone towards each other because of that 
ray of light which each of them contains • and light 
resembles light. It reveals that the isolated man, 
to() It, e in the open expanses, is doomed to adversity 
as If lu were a captive, in spite of appearances ; and 
that men must come together that they may be 
stronger, that they may be more peaceful, and even 
tliat they may be able to live. 

For men are made to live their life in its depth 
and also in all its length. Stronger than the elements 
and keener than all terrors arc the hunger to last 
long, the passion to possess one's days to the very 
end and to make the best of them. It is not only a 
nght ; it is a virtue. ^ 

Contact dissolves fear and dwindles danger The 
wild beast attacks the solitary man, but shrinks 
from the unison of men together. Around the home- 
fire, that lowly fawning deity, it n. ans the multi- 
pication of the wai; .th and even of the poor riches 
of Its ha'o. Among the ambushes of broad daylight 



I) !•: I' K() r r N I) I s « i. a m a \ i is^ 

it niratis tln' I)' tt»T ili^tiilmtimi <.f tin- «|itftiiMii 
furnii uf lal)om , .minnt,' the aijibii lio uf lu^^lit. U 
stands Un that (if tctuKr and idirnical sl»«'p All 
lon<' !o>t wftrds blind in an nntlinn wIumc nuinnui 
li-i's in till* Valley fioni tlir Im-y aniniatinn nf nimn- 
ing and ivtniii;; 

The law wliu h ifK'il.iti , tin- loinniun K'«>"d i-> 
rnllcd the moral law. Now In re ikh imt ha> morality 
any other piirpo-e than that ; and il onlv one man 
lived on earth, moialif\ woujij not exist, h prunes 
the cluster of tlu' indixidual's appetites according 
to the (U'sires of the othir- It emanates from all 
.mil from each at the ^ame time, at one and tin -amc 
time from justice and fioni peisonal interest. It is 
intle.xihle and natural, as much so as the law whiih, 
before our e\es, fits the lights and shadows so per- 
fectly together. It is so simple that it speaks to 
e.uh one and tells him what it is. The moral law 
has not proceeded from anv ideal ; it is the ideal 
which has wholly proceeded from the moral law 



i 



The primeval catacl\sm has begun again upon 
the earth. My vision— beautiful as a fair dream 
which shows men's composed n Mance on each other 
in the sunrise- collapses in mad nightmare. 

But this flashing de\astation is not incoherent, as 
at the time of the conflict (»f the first elements and 
the groping of dead things. For its crevasses and 
flow ing fires show a symmetry which l.^ not Nature's ; 
it reveals discipline let loose, ,d the frenzy of 
wisdom. It is made up of thought, of will, of suffer- 
ing. Multitudes of scattered men, full of an infinity 
of blood, confront each other like flood'^. A vision 
comes and pounces on me, shaking the s<)il on which 
I am doubtless laid — the marching flood. It ap- 
proaches the ditch from all sides, and is poured into 



IM. 



II 



1. 1(, If I 



if. 



I # 






It. I hf In.' Iii-isfs and roar-, in that ann\ a^ w water 
it is cxtinf^'UHliitl in human fountainn ' 



It w'f nis to nil I hat I atn stru^'^'hny af»ainst what 
I see. while l\ in;,' and i Itn^niK' soni.whrn- ; ant! on. o 
I cvt-n heard ^n|M■rnallll.lI athnoniticn-^ in my car. 
as if I hcrr MDHtu/urf tht\ 

I am looking for nitn for thr p -< ue of spircli, 
of a w«»rd. Ho>\ nianv of thi in ] heard, oiuv upon 
a time ! I want .in,. ,rilv, now. I am in the re^-ion 
where men are eartiud n\) — i . in>hed plain under 
a dizzv >kv, vvi i<h K'Hs hv ptopUd with other ^tars 
tlian those of hiaven. an«i tense with other < louds, 
and eontinually h^hted from flash to (lash U\ a 
daylight whii li is not day. 

Nearer, one mak.'S out the hmnan shape of great 
drifts and fiilly helds, many-roloun d atifl yaguely 
iloral - the corpse of a sectio.i or of a (ompany. 
Nearer still, I perceiv(> at my feet the ugliness of 
skulls. Ves, I have seen them -wounds as big an 
men ! In this n. w cosspof.l whi< h lire dyes red h^ 
night and the nmltitude djcs red by day^ rrows arc 
staggering, drunk. 

Yonder, that is the listening-post, keeping watch 
over the rycles of time. Five or six < aptive sentinels 
are buried there in that cistern's dark, their faces 
grimacing through the vent-hole, their skull-caps 
barred with red as with gleams from hell, their mien 
desperate and ravcnons. 

When 1 ask them why they are fighting they say : 

" To save my country." 

I am wandering on the other side of the immense 
fields where the \ellow puddles are strewn witii 
black ones (for blood soils even mud), and with 
thickets of steel, and with trees which are no more 
than the shadows of themselves ; I hear the skeleton 
of my jaws shiver and chatter. 1 1 the middle of 



1)1, I'K nl I N {) I s ( I A .M A\ I 1S7 

fit' ll.lV.cl and \MUIiint? « rnictrf \ «>( livint; ukI '\vAi\. 
nifonhki' 11; llif ill' lit. thtlf H a wulv vWiin nj 
U'VilIrd rnUU. it < i tint .1 Mlla>,'f tli.il .-lilt wa-i 
ittrn-. it \va«i a liill-idi w tutM' pah' huii«'«> .in- likr tlio'^i' 
<t a \illa^,'<'. I |i>' ntht i jHopli- imiu' ha\r m-iiii|H(| 
Itaj^ili Imli -., .nu\ tr.iird di-aNlmu^ pallia \ itlj their 
hands and with thni fi 1 1 I h» ir fucrs, ^vv j^lraincd 
forwatd, th«ir t\t-. -t.iit li, iht\ ^nitt thi- wind. 

" W lis an- yii liKhtiiif^ .' ' 

" io >avf ni\ tountrv." 

The two answiT^ fall as aliki in tin' di-farKi- a^ two 
tioti -. >if a pa^-^ing bril. a^ .ilikc as tin- \uii i' of tin- 



And If am sciknif,' ; it i^ .1 ffViT, u l(inf,'inK', ;i 
niachifss. I -.tnig^dc, I wnidii fain tear nn si-jf from 
thi' >oil ti> takt' wing tn the ttutii I am Making tlir 
ditferon •(' ! ttwi-en tlm-^f pt .ipjc who arc killing tluni- 
s('lvi>, and 1 ( ;in (»nl\- litd tluir rfscnihlancc. I 
cannot ( scapf Irorn this ii semblance of men. It 
tirrilU's mc, and I try to cry ont, and there come 
from me y-trange and diaotic sounds which cc ho into 
the unknown, wliii h 1 alnin:^t hear ! 

They do not weir similar clothes on tin,' targets 
(if their bodies, and the\ speak different tongea-s ; 
but from tlie bottom of that which is hum;in u'thin 
them, identicall\' the sauv simplicities cotni; forth, 
'i tiey have the same sorrrtws and the same angers, 
around the sai.ie causes. 'Ihes' are alike as their 
wound> are alik and will be alike. 'I Iieir sayings arc 
as similar as the cries that pain wrings from them, 
a<) aU!ce as the awful lencc that soon will brtatlic 
from their murdered .ips. 'Iliev onlv light because 
they are face to face. .\gaii'--t eacfi other, they 
are pursuing a conuiion end. Dimly, thcv kill 
themselves because tlnv are alike. 

And h\ day and b\' night, these two halves of war 



T.^S 



r r (, Ff T 



crmtmu.> in Uv ,n wait for .a, l, „rl. r .»f.ir f.. .1,. ,1,..,. 

I l'«N ..t. ^. par If. .1 hvall fl.at ran s.-parat.- hv d -li 
•"*'. ami M.ll In .l.a.l „u n. an.! .v. tllwn h ."k 
ra.|, into .,. ,,..,.i„^, ,.,„„,, ,,^. hla, k rK- "r^ ruj 

llMt,. IS no real irason for it .M ih.r.T ilT" 

"■17,;,'-' -Mu. 1 „„.:;,;',",.ui'!;..:; " "" 

anci lit art. I list, n I rcnutuhcr all. 



A boomuiK sound vihratcs and incrra.os. I.k,. th. 
. W|nK-lH.atH of .onu. din,, tumnm.o us arc I- 
.«.•. above tlH. heads of the n.asses thai ,no v , 
.o.,nta^> dunK.'ons or ..vheel rn,„,d .o furni.]. tl 
front of th.' lines with new flesh 

'•Forward! It has to be' Vou shall ;,./ ki.ow • ■" 

J,W "i^r "'."^•''rnmuehofitandfs^it 
<KarI> Ihese multitudes wh.) are set in motion 
and let loose - their brains and their >o, Is n 1 t " 
udl. are not m il.em. but outside them • 



Other p..„ple far au.t,. think and wish for them 
The „,ultm>do „ a, „,e ,ame ,ime pow " al.d ir^;: 



I>1; J' l{Oll' M)!^ ^ |, ^ \l \ \ | 



r>., 



i.avc MTh It \Mflt tiu ».\M. , \. , \\.„ ,^ (|„ „i,,|,, 
tude-and i» i iH.r ■ \\ :\ .|„| ( n„. i^,^.,^^ ,i ^^,^ 

N.ldur ..| tl.f wu!. v\..fl.l, \,,ii the irui» i.ikcii 
li.i|>!i.uai<l tiutii Auumn nun, ii ni.mlMt— tin i, w.i^ 
not a niDUitnt ulun \<m wu. in^If .W-vtr did 
\«Mi ciM' to be hovs.d ,i,h|,.| ih,. hai-h and .in>wir- 
loMonnnand. *• h liaiob., it lu^ tu In- " h, tinu-^ 
of ptate I'luinlfd ui 'Ih- Liw ol niv l•s^anf l.ilx.iir m 
ihr nu< ham. .d null ■ th«- conuncnul tndi, >|.i\r .,1 
tht tiH»l, ui lUv |M n, ,,| viMn talent. ..r of v.iur othti 
fl.inK, y.Mi Win- tru. kid uiihuiu t -si)!?* hou, iM..in 
irifi to LVcinnK by thi' d.idy U^k whii h allow,-U you 
<>ui\ ]u^i to ovtrcoinc Uh\ .uid to rr-t ..hIn" mi 
«lifani>. 

Wlan the war coino thai you uv\ i wanlid - 
uhativtr your count r\ and your name- thi- lirnhlf 
fati- which grips y.,u is sharpiv unniask«d, olhnsivc 
and (omplua'id. Ihc wind of K.nd.innatiui ',as 
arisen. 

Thty rc.juisition your hody. Tlic\ lav hoi . on 
vou with mcasiins of nK-nari" whi« hate likf Iv^.d 
.irrest. from whii h n.itliing that iN poor and iu»<l-, 
tan escape. Tliey imprison you in barracks. 1 hty 
strip you naked as a worm, and dress you Uf^.tin in 
a uniform which oblitcrat.-, \(.u ; they mark your 
neck with a munber. The uniform even enters into 
your flesh, for you are sliaped and cut out bv 
the stamping machine of exercises, lirightly dad 
strangers spring up about >ou, and encircle vou. 
inu recognise them— they are not strangers. It is 
a carnival, then- but a fierce and Inial carnival, for 
these arc your new masters, tliev the absolute, pro- 



claiming on their hsts and heads f 



eir 



gilded 
ou are 



authority. Such of them as are near to y 

themselves only the servants of others, who wear 
a greater power painted on their clothes, it is a 



igo 



1. 1 G H T 



! I 



!i 



liie of misery, humiliation, and diminution into 
which you fall from day to day. badly fed and badly 
treated, assailed throughout your body, spurred on 
by your warder's orders. At every moment you are 
thrown violently back into your littleness, you are 
punished for the least action which comes out of it, 
or slain by the order of your masters. It is forbidden 
you to speak when you would unite yourself with the 
brother who is touching you. The silence of steel 
reigns around you. Your thoughts must be only 
profound endurance. Discipline is indispensable for 
the multitude to be melted into a single army ; and 
in spite of the vague kinship which is sometimes 
set up between you and year nearest chief, the 
machine-like order paralyses you first, so that your 
body may be the better made to move in accordance 
v;ith the rhythm of the rank and the regiment — into 
which, nuUifying all that is yourself, you pass 
already as a sort of dead man. 

" They gather us together but they separate us ! " 
cries a voice from the past. 

If there are some who escape through the meshes, 
it means that such " slackers " are also influential. 
They are uncommon, in spite of appearances, as the 
influential are. You, the isolated man, the ordinary 
man, the lowly thousand-miUionth of humanity, 
you evade nothing, and you march right to the end 
of all that happens, or to the end of yourself. 

You will be crushed. Either you will go into the 
charnel-house, destroyed by those who are similar to 
you, since war is only made by you, or you will 
return to your point in the world diminished or 
diseased, retaining only existence without health 
or joy, a home-exile after absences too long, im- 
poverished for ever by the time you have squandered. 
Even if selected by the miracle of chance, if un- 
scathed in the hour of victory, you also, you will be 
vanquished. When you return into the insatiable 



DE PROFUNDIS CI. AMAVT 191 

machine of the work-hours, among your own people 
— whose misery the profiteers have meanwhile 
sucked dry with their passion for gain— the task 
will be harder than before, because of the war that 
must be paid for, with all its incalculable conse- 
quences. You who pcopkd the peace-time prisons 
of your towns and barns, begone to people the im- 
mobility of the battlefields— and if you survive, 
pay up ! Pay for a glory which is not yours, or for 
ruins that others have made with your hands. 

Suddenly, in front of me and a few paces from my 
couch — as if I were in a bed, in a bedroom, and had 
all at once woke up— an uncouth shape rises awry. 
Even in the darkness I see that it is mangled. I see 
about its face something abnormal which dimly 
shines ; and I can see. too, by his staggering steps, 
sunk in the black soil, that his shoes are empty. He 
cannot speak, but he brings forward the thin arm 
from which rags hang down and drip ; and his im- 
perfect hand, as torturing to the mind as discordant 
chords, points to the place of his heart. I see that 
heart, buried in the darkness of the flesh, in the 
black blood of the living — for only shed blood is red. 
I see him profoundly, with my heart. If he said 
anything he would say the words that I still hear 
falling, drop by drop, as I heard them yonder, 
" Nothing can be done, nothing." I try to move, to 
rid myself of him. But I cannot, I am pinioned in 
a sort of nightmare ; and if he had not himself faded 
away, I should have stayed there for ever, dazzled in 
presence of his darkness. This man said nothing. 
He appeared like the dead thing he is. He has de- 
parted. Perhaps he has ceased to be, perhaps he 
has entered into death, which is not more mysterious 
to him than life, which he is leaving — and I have 
fallen back into myself. 



I 



iga 



LIGHT 



He has returned, to show his face to me. Ah, now 
there IS a bandage round his head, and so I recognise 
him by his crown of filth ' I begin again that 
moment when I clasped him against me to crush 
ium. when I propped him against the shell, when 
my amis felt his bones cracking round his heart t 
It was he !-It was I ! He says nothing, from the 
eternal abysses in which he remains my brother in 
silence and ignorance. The remorseful cry which 
tears my throat outstrips me. and would find some 
one else. 

Who ? 

That destiny which killed him by means of me— 
has It no human faces ? 

" Kings ! " said Termite. 

" The big people ! " said the man whom they had 
^"?I®7u ^ close-cropped German prisoner, the man 
with the convict's hexagonal face, he who was 
greenish from top to toe. 

But these kings and majesties and superhuman 
men who are illuminated by fantastic names and 
never make mistakes— were they not done away with 
long since? One does not know. 

One does not see those who rule. One only 
sees what tjjey wish, and what they do with the 
others. ••'' 

Why have They always command? One does not 
know. The multitudes have not given themselves 
to Them They have taken them and They keep 
them. Their power is supernatural. It is. because 

brelt^-'^Uhrsto^??^'""'"" ^"' ^^"""^^ ^"^ 
As they have laid hold of arms, so they lay hold 
of heads, and make a creed. 

, "J^^y..*^" y^^'" cried he whom none of the 
lowly soldiers would deign to listen to ; " they say 
to you. This is what you must have in your minds 
and hearts. 



DE PROFUNDIS CLAMAVI 193 

An inexorable reUgion has faUen from them upon 
us all. upholding what exists, preserving what ir 

Suddenly I hear beside me. as if I were in a file of 
the executed, a stammering death-agony ; and I 
thmk I see him who struggled Uke a stricken vulture 
on the earth that was bloated with dead. And his 
words enter my heart, more distinctly than when 
they were still alive ; and they wound me like blows 
at once of darkness and of light : 

" Men must not open their eyes ! " 

" Faith comes at will, hke the rest ! " said Ad- 
jutant Marcassin, as he fluttered in his red trousers 
about the ranks hke a blood-stained priest of the 
God of War, 

He was right ! He had grasped the chains of 
bondage when he hurled that true cry against the 
truth. Every man is something of account, but 
Ignorance isolates and resignation scatters. Every 
poor man carries within him centuries of indifference 
and serviUty. He is a defenceless prey for hatred 
and dazzlement. 

The man of the people whom I am looking for 
while I writhe through confusion as through mud' 
the worker who measures his strength against toil 
which is greater than he. and who never escapes 
from hardships, the serf of these days— I see him as 
If he were here. He is coming out of his shop at the 
bottom of the court. He wears a square cap. One 
makes out the shining dust of old age strewn in his 
stubbly beard. He chews and smokes his foul and 
noisy pipe. He nods his head ; with a fine and 
sterling smile he says : 

" There's always "been war, so there'll always be " 

And all around him people nod ^heir heads and 
think the same, in the poor lonely well of their heart 
Ihey hold the conviction, anchored to the bottom 
of their brains, that things can never change any 
more. They are like posts and paving-stones, dis- 
o 



i i 



194 



LIGHT 



tinct but cemented together ; they beHcve that the 
life of the world is a sort of great stone monument, 
and they obey, obscurely and indistinctly, every- 
thing which commands ; and they do not look afar, 
in spite of the Uttle children. And I remember the 
readiness there was to yielo themselves, body and 
soul, to serried resignation. Then. too. there is 
alcohol which murders ; wine, which drowns. 

One does not see the kings ; one only sees the 
reflection of them on the multitude. 

There are bemusings and spells of fascination, of 
which we are the object. I think, fascinated. 

My lips religiously recite a passage in a book 
which a young man has just read to me while I, 
quite a child, lean drowsily on the kitchen table : 

" Roland is not dead. Through long centuries our 
splendid ancestor, the warrior of warriors, has been 
seen riding over the mountains and hills across the 
France of Charlemagne and Hugh the Great. At all 
times of great national disaster he has risen before 
the people's eyes, like an omen of victory and glory, 
with his lustrous helmet and his sword. He has 
appeared and has halted like a soldier-archangel over 
the flaming horizon of conflagrati ms or the dark 
mounds of battle and pestilence, leaning over his 
horse's winged mane, fantastically swaying as though 
the earth itself were inebriate with pride. Every- 
where he has been seen, reviving the ideals and the 
prowess of the Past. He was seen in Austria, at the 
time of the eternal quarrel between Pope and Em- 
peror ; he was seen above the strange stirrings of 
Scythians and Arabs, and the glowing civilisations 
which arose and fell like waves around the Mediter- 
ranean. Great Roland can never die." 

And after he had read these lines of a legend, the 

young man made me admire them, and looked at me. 

He whom I thus see again, as precisely as one sees 

a portrait, just as he was that evening so wonder- 



DE PROFUNDIS CLAMAVI 



195 



fully far away, was my father. And I remember 
how devoutly I believed -from that day now buried 
among them all— in the beauty of those things, 
because my father had told me they were beautiful. 

In the low room of the old house, under the green 
and watery gleam of the diamond panes in the 
lancet window, the ancient citizen cries : " There 
are people mad enough to believe that a day will 
come when Brittany will no longer be at war with 
Maine I " He appears in the vortex of the past, 
and so saying, sinks back in it. And an engraving, 
once and for a long time heeded, again takes life. 
Standing on the wooden boom of the ancient port, 
his scarred doublet rusted by wind and brine, his 
old back bellied like a sail, the pirate is shaking his 
fist at the frigate that passes in the distance ; and 
leaning over the tangle of tarred beams, as he used 
to on the nettings of his corsair ship, he predicts his 
race's eternal hat od for the English. 

" Russia a republic ! " We raise our arms to 
Heaven. " Germany a republic ! " We raise our 
arms to Heaven. 

And the great voices, the poets, the singers— what 
have the great voices said ? They have sung the 
praises of the victor's laurels without knowing what 
they are. You, old Homer, bard of the i' j tribes 
of the coasts, with your serene and ven. . vule face 
sculptured in the hkeness of your great childUke 
genius, with your three times millennial lyre and 
your empty eyes — you who led us to Poetry ! And 
you, herd of poets enslaved, who did not understand, 
who lived before you could understand, in an age 
when great men were only the domestics of great 
lords — and you, too, servants of the resounding and 
opulent pride of to-day, eloquent flatterers and mag- 
nificent dunces, you unwilling enemies of mankind ! 
—you have all sung the laurel wreath without 
knowing what it is. 



V-l. 



zq6 



LIGHT 



There are dazzlings. and solemnities, and cere- 
monies, to amuse and excite tlic common people, to 
dim their sight with bright colours, with the gUtter 
of tlie badges and stars that are crumbs of royalty, 
to inflame them with the jingle of bayonets and 
medals, with trumpets and trombones and the big 
drum, and to inspire the demon of war in the ex- 
citable feelings of women and the inflammable 
creduhty of the young. I see the triumphal arches, 
the military displays in the vast amphitheatres of 
public places, and the march past of those who go 
to die, who walk in step to hell by reason of their 
strength and youth, and the hurrahs for war, and the 
real piide which the lowly feel in bending the knee 
before their masters, and saying, as their cavalcade 
tops the hill, " It's fine ! They might be galloping 
over us ! " "It's magnificent, how warHke we 
are ! " says the woman, always dazzled, as she con- 
vuLively presses the arm of him who is going 
away. 

And another kind of excitement takes form and 
seizes me by the throat in the pestilential pits of 
hell. " They're on fire, they're on fire ! " stammers 
that soldier, breathless as his empty rifle, as the 
flood of the exalted German divisions advances, 
hnked elbow to elbow under a godlike halo of 
ether, to drown the deeps with their single lives. 

Ah, the intemperate shapes and inities that 
float in fragments above the peopled precipices ! 
When two overlords, jewel-set with ghttering 
General Staffs, proclaim at the same time on either 
side of their throbbing mobihsed frontiers, " We 
will save our country ! " there is one immensity 
deceived and two victimised. There are two 
deceived immensities ! 

There is nothing else. That these cries can be 
uttered togethe'- in the face of Heaven, in the face 
of truth, proves at a stroke the monstrosity of 



DE PROFUNDIS CLAMAVI 197 

the laws which rule us, and the madness of the 
gods. 

I turn on a bed of pain to escape from tlie horrible 
vision of masquerade, from the fantastic absurdity 
into which all these things are brought back ; and 
my fever seeks again. 

Those bright spells which blind, and the darkness 
which also blinds. Falsehood riiles with those who 
rule, effacing Resemblance everywhere, and every- 
where creating Difference. 

Nowhere can one turn aside from falsehood. 
Where indeed is there none ? The linked-up lies, 
the invisible chain, the Chain ! 

Murmurs and shouts alike cross in confusion. 
Here and yonder, to right and to left, they make 
pretence. Truth never reaches as far as men. 
News hlters through, false or atrophied. On this 
side — all is beautiful and disinterested ; yonder — 
the same things a-** infamous. " French mihtarism 
is not the same thing as Prussian militarism, since 
one's French and the other's Prussian." The 
newspapers, the sombre host of the great prevailing 
newspapers, fall upon the minds of men and wrap 
them up. The daily siftings link them together, 
and chain them up, and forbid them to look ahead. 
And the impecunious papers show blanks in the 
places where the truth was too clearly written. 
At the end of a war, the last things to be known 
by th.^ ciiildren of the slain and by the mutilated 
and worn-out survivors will be all the war-aims of 
its directors. 

Suddenly they reveal to the people an accom- 
plished fact which has been worked out in the terra 
incognita of courts, and they say : " Now that it is 
too late, only one resource is left you — Kill that 
you be not killed." 

They brandish the superficial incident which in 
the last hour has caused the armaments and the 



io8 



LIGHT 



heapod-ui» rcKntment and intrigues to overflow in 
war ; and they ?ay, " That is the only cause of 
the war." It is not true ; the only cause of war is 
the slavery of those whose ilej^h wages it. 

They say to the people, " When once victory 
is gained, agreeably to yotir masters, all tyranny 
will have disappeared .is if by magic, and there will 
be peace on earth." It is not ue. There will be 
no peace on earth until the reign of men is come. 

But will it ever come ? Will it have time to 
come, while hoHow-eycd humanity makes such 
haste to die ? For all this advertisement o* war, 
rudiant in the sunshine, all these temporary and 
mendacious reasons, stupidly or skilfully curtailed, 
of which not one reaches the lofty elevation of the 
common welfare-all these insufficient pretexts 
suffice in sum to make the artless man bow in 
bestial ignorance, to adorn him with iron and 
forge him at vcill. 

" It is not on Reason." cried the spectre of the 
battlefield whose torturing spirit was breaking 
away from his still gilded body ; " it is not on Reason 
that the Bible of History stands. Else are the law 
of majesties and the ancient quarrel of the flags 
essentially supernatural and intangible, or the old 
world is built on principles of insanity." 

He touches me with his stony hand and I tr>- 
to shake myself, and I stumble curiously, although 
lying down. A clamour booms in my temples 
and then thunders hke the guns in my ears ; it 
overflows me — I drown in th..t cry : 

" It must be ! It ha- to be ! Yov shall not 
know ! " 

That is the war-cry, that is the cry of war. 



War will come again after this one. It will come 
again as often as can be determined by people 



DEPROFUNDISCLAMWI i^ 

otlicr tlian those who fight. The same causes will 
produce the same effects, and the Uving will have 
to give up all hojH\ 

Wc cannot say out of what b'storical conjunctions 
the final ti-mpestH will issui*. n«»r by what fancy 
names tl:? intcrchanmMbK- Ultuls imposed on men 
will be known in that moincnt. Mut the cause — 
that will perhaps everywhere be fear of the nations' 
real freedom. What we do know, is that the 
tcmp<'sts will come. 

Armaments will increase every year amid dizzy 
enthusiasm. The relentless torture of precision 
seizes me : We do three "ears of niilitarj' training; 
our children will do live. the\ will do ttn. We pay 
two thousand million francs a year in preparation 
for war ; we shall pay twenty, we shall pay fifty 
thousand million. AH that wc have will be taken ; 
it will be robbery, insolvency, bankruptcy. War 
kills wealth as it does men ; it goes away in ruins 
and smoke, and one carmot fabricate gold any more 
than soldiers. We no longer know how to count ; 
wc no longer know anything. A billion — a million 
millions — the word .ppears to me printed on the 
emptiness of things. It sprang yesterday out of 
war, and I shrink in dismay from the new incom- 
prehensible word. 

There will be nothing else on the earth but 
preparation for war. All living forces will be 
absorbed by it ; it will monopolise all discovery, all 
science, all imagination. Supremacy in the air 
alone, the regular levies for the control of space, 
will suffice to squander a nation's fortune. For 
aerial navigation, at its birth in the middle of 
envious circles, has become a rich prize which 
everybody desires, a prey they have immeasurably 
torn in pieces. 

Other expenditure will dry up before that on 
destruction does, and other longings as well, and 



200 



LIGHT 



I 






The battlefield* were prepared long a^o Thev 

cover entire provinces with one black^^y witf 

• a r eat metafiic reservoir of factorien. wLm Tron 

fnl ! ^"^'"''"aces tremble, bordered by a land of 

weeps the sharp blackness of sna-es • a rni.n»r« 
navigated by frantic groups of rai wiy'tS S^ 

St whater'n;.i"; '"' ''''\^^ '''^'"^'^^ -'"^^ " 
.CH f P '"* 5'°" '"^y *^ on the plain, even 

LT/""'/T*y' ^^^" »' y"" take flight, tho bright 

sheaves of wire, rise into the air. Upon that 
territory of execution there rises and Ths and 
writhes machinery so complex that it has not even 

--above the booming whirlwinds which ire linked 
from east to west in the glow of molten metal who!e 

lt^t?'oi'JT '; ''r-''^ lighthouses, or Tth: 
f.n nn ^'^"^'"^^ ^^^ctric constellations-hardlv 
can one make out the artificial outline uf a mounta n 
range, clapped upon space. '"ouniain 

This immense city of immense low buildings 
rectangular and dark, is not a city. They are 
assaulting tanks, which a feeble internal ge ture se s 
n motion, ready for the rolling rush of the r ^/anMr 
knee-caps. These endless cannon thrust in on s 
stnH T'^' ^"'" V^^" fi^^y ^"trails'of the earth and 
Rsa^s tow7r ."P"^i'*;,^^^d'y J^^aning so much as 
Fisa s tower ; and these slanting tubes lone as 

Zw'^y "^'"'''T- '"^ '""« ^hat perspective Sort 
their hnes and sometimes spliys them hke the 
ti^v fri' °^ Apocalypse-these a,e no^ cannon 
or trams, which scoop out -a entire regions— and 



DE PROFUNDIS C !. A M A V I a«i 

upon a country, if need be— moiintaini of oro- 
fundtty. '^ 

In war, which was once like the open country 
and IS now wholly like towns- and i^vcn like one 
immense building i>nc hardly —c% the nu-n On 
the round-ways and the caHcma.cH. thi- f cmm hridires 
and the movable platforns, among the labyrinth 
of concrete caves, above the r.giment n hclonricd 
downwards m the gulf and mormously upright- 
one sees a haggard herd of wan and stm.ping men 
men black and trickling, men issuing from the 
peaty f rf of night, mt-n who canjc there to save 
their country. They earthed themselves up in 
some zone of the vertical gorg."^. ;.nd one sees them 
in this mof; accursed corner than thoM* where the 
hurricane reels. One senses this human material 
in the cavities of those smooth grottoes, like Dante's 
guilty sh.ides. Infernal glim;Tiers disclose ranged 
Imes of them, as long as roads, slender and tremblinK 
spaces of night, which daylight and even sunshine 
leave befouled with darkness and cyclopcan dirt. 
Solid clouds overhang then., and hatchet-charged 
luimcanes; and leaping Hashes set fire every 
second to the sky's iron mines up above the damned 
whose pale faces change not under the ashes of 
death. They wait, intent on the solemnity and the 
significance of that vast and heavy booming against 
which they are for the moment imprisoned. They 
will he down for ever around the spot where they 
are. Like others before them, they will be shrouded 
m perfect oblivion. Their cries will rise above the 
earth no more than their lips. Their glory will not 
quit their poor bodies. 

I am borne away in one of the aeroplanes whose 
multitude darkens the light of day as flights of 
arrows do in children's story-books, forming a 
vaulted army. They are a fieet which can disembark 
a million men a ' " 



their supplies any 



any 



ao'^ 



LIGHT 



nioin«»nt. It it only a frw y»»ari fine* we heard tl»e 
puting cry ol the ftnit aeroplane*, and now their 
voice drown» all otheri Ihcir devpjopini'nt hat 
only normally proceeded, yet tht y ulono !»uHke to 
makf the territorial vifi-giiarch di-mandrd by the 
dirunRcd of former gtmrulinns apjMiir at lu^t to 
all people an comical jestn. Swept along by the 
engin. •* fcrtnulable weight, a th';usand times more 
powerful than it is he; vy, tossing in HjKirr and 
hlhng my hbren with its roar. I Hi.c the dwindling 
mcmnds where the huge tuben stick up like ^walm- 
ing pins. I am carried ali»ng at a heigl ' of two 
thousand yards. An air-jxKkit has seized me 
in a coiridor of cloud, and 1 have fallen like a stone 
a thousand yards lower, garndted by furious air 
which is cold as a blade, and tilled by a plunging 
cry. I have seen conflagrations and the explosions 
of mines, and plumes of smf)ke which flow dis- 
ordered and spin out in long black zigzags like the 
locks of the (ifxl of War ! I have seen the con- 
centric circles by which the stippled nniltitude is 
ever renewed. The dug-outs, lined with lifts, 
de cend in oblique parallels into the depths. One 
frightful night I saw the enemy flood it all wiih an 
inexhaustible torrent of liquid fire. I had a vision 
of that black and rocky valley filled to the brim 
with the lava stream which dazzled the sight and 
sent a dreadful terrestrial dawn into the whole of 
night. With its heart aflame, Earth seemed to 
become transparent aa glass along that crevasse ; 
and amid the lake of fire, heaps of living beings 
float<'d on some raft, anr! writhed like the spirits 
of damnation. The other men fled upwards, and 
piled themselves in clusters on cue straight-lined 
borders of the valley of filth and tears. I saw those 
swarming shadows huddled on the upper brink of 
the long armoured chasms which the #'xploe.inns 
set trernbling like steamships. 



DE PROFUNDIS CLAMAVl ^fi^ 

All chemittr>' make* flaming ftre^^nrkft in th« sky 
or uprpad* in *hrct* o( p(MM>n exactly a* huge a» 
the huge town«. Aguin<tt them no wall avails, no 
secret armour ; at>d murrU'r enters a* invisibly ai 
death itself. Industry nuiltiplies its magi* . Klec* 
triritv l<'t l'K»se its lightnings and thunder*- and 
that miraculous mastery \vlii« h hutU |H)wer Uke a 
projectile. 

\\]\o can say if this enormotis might of electricity 
alone will not change the face of war ? — the cen- 
tralised cluster of waves, the irresistible orbs going 
infinitely forth to fire and destroy all explosives, 
Hfting the r«M>ted armour of the earth, choking 
the subterranean gulfs with heaps of c ikincd 
men — who will bt; wound up like barren coal — 
ar J maybc^ even arousing the earthquakes, and 
tearing the central fires from earth's dcpt'is like 
ore ! 

That will be seen by people who arc alive to-day ; 
and yet that vision of the future so near at hand 
{<; only a slight magniltcation, flitting through the 
brain. It terrifies one to think for how short a 
time science has been methodical and of usefvl 
industry ; and after all, is there anything on ear.i 
more marvellously easy than destruction ? Who 
knows the new mediums it has laid in store ? Who 
knows the Umit of cruelty to which the art of 
poisoning may go ? W ho knows if they will not 
subject and impress epidemic disease as they do 
the living aiinies— or that it will not emerge, 
meticulous, invincible, from the armies of the 
dead ? Who knows by what dread means they will 
sink in oblivion this war, which only struck to the 
ground twenty thousand men a day, which has 
invented guns of only seventy-five miles' range, 
bombs of only one ton's weight, aeroplanes of only 
a hundred and fifty mile''- an h^tir, tanks, and sub- 
marines which cross the Atlantic ? Their costs 



2r4 



LIGHT 



have not yet reached in any country the sum total 
of private fortunes. 

But the upheavals we catch sight of, though 
we can only and hardly indicate them in figures, will 
be too much for life. The desperate and furious 
disappearance of soldiers will have a limit We 
may no longer be able to count ; but Fate will 
count. Some day. the men will be killed, and the 
women and the children. And They also will 
disappear-they who stand erect upon the irao- 
minious death of the soldiers-they will disappear 
along with the huge and palpitating pedestal in 
which they were rooted. But they profit by the 
present, they believe it will last as long as they, and 
dol .//"^''^i'''" '!f^ °\^^^ '^'y '^y' 'After us the 
fi lite?s ^'^'" ^'" ^^^^^ *'''■ ^^"* °^ 

The spectacle of to-morrow is one of agony 
Wise men make laughable efforts to determine 
what may be, m the ages to come, the cause of the 
inhabited world's end. Will it be a comet, the 
rarefaction of water, or the extinction of the sun. 

h! i-r r ^r^'7 ""^"^'"^ • They have forgotten 
the hkehest and nearest cause— Suicide 
They who say, "There will always be war." do 

nnL r Z^^^ ^^^y ^'^ '^y^"S- They are preyed 
upon by the common internal malady of short - 

!?i iu^y^ *t"^ themselves full of common sense 
as they think themselves full of honesty. In reaUtv 
they are reveahng the clumsy and hmited mentality 
ot the assassins themselves. 

The shapeless struggle of the elements will bedn 
again on the seared earth when men have slain 
themselves because they were slaves, because they 
believed the same things, because they were aUke 
I utter a cry of despair, and it seems as if I had 
turned over and stifled it in a pillow 



DE PROFUNDIS CLAMAVI 205 

All is madness, i^nd there is no one who will 
dare to rise and say that all is not madness, and 
that the future does not so appear— as fatal and 
unchangeable as a memory. 

But how many men will there be who will dare, 
in face of the universal deluge which will be at the 
end as it was in the beginning, to get up and cry, 
" No ! " who will pronounce the terrible and 
irrefutable issue : 

" No ! The interests of the people and the 
interests of all their present overlords are not 
the same. Upon the world's antiquity there 
are two enemy races— the great and the little. 
The allies of the great are, in spite of appear- 
ances, the great. The aUies of the people are 
the people. Here on earth there is one tribe 
only of parasites and ring- leaders, who are the 
victors ; and one people only, who are the van- 
quished.*' 

But, as in those earliest ages, will not thoughtful 
faces arise out of the darkness ? (For this is Chaos 
and the animal kingdom ; and Reason being no 
more, she has yet to be born.) 

" You must think ; but with your own idea, 
not other people's." 

That lowly saying, a straw whirling in the 
measureless hand-to-hand struggle of the armies, 
shines in my soul above all others. To think is 
to hold that the masses have so far wrought too 
much evil without wishing it, and that the 
ancient authorities, everywhere clinging fast, violate 
humanity and separate the inseparable. 

There have been those who magnificently dared. 
There have been bearers of the truth, men who 
groped in the world's tumult, trying to make plain 
order of it. They discover what we did not yet 
know ; chiefly they discover what we no longer 
knew. 



ao6 



LIGHT 



But what a panic is here, among the powerful 
and the powers that be I 

" Truth is revolutionary ! Get you gone, truth- 
bearers 1 Away with you, reformers I You bring 
in the reign of men I " 

That cry was thrown into my ears one tortured 
night, like a whisper from deeps below, when he 
of the broken wings was dying, when he struggled 
tumultuously against the opening of men's eyes ; 
but I had always heard it round about me, 
always. 

In official speeches, sometimes, at moments of 
great public flattery, th-y speak like the reformers, 
but that is only the diplomacy whicli aims at 
felling them better. They force the light-bearers 
to hide themselves and their torches. These 
dreamers, these visionaries, these star-gazers— they 
are hooted and derided. Laughter is let loose 
around them, machine-made laughter, quarrelsome 
and beastly : 

" Your notion of peace is only Utopian, any way, 
as long as you never, any day, stopped the war by 
yourself I " 

They point to the battlefield and its wreckage : 

" And you say that war won't be for ever ? Look 
driveller ! " 

The circle of the setting sun is crimsoning the 
mangled horizon of humanity : 

" You sav that the sun is bigger than the earth ? 
Look, imbecile ! " 

They are anathema, they are sacrilegious, they 
are excommunicated, who impeach the magic 
of the past and the poison of tradition. And the 
thousand milhon victims themselves scoff at and 
strike, as soon as they can, those who rebel. 
All cast stones at them, all, even those who suffer 
and while they arc suffering even the sacrificed, 
a Uttle before they die. 






DEPROFUNDISCLAMAVI 207 

The bleeding soldiers of VVagram cry, " Long live 
the Emperor I " And the mournful exploited in the 
streets cheer for the defeat of those who are trying 
to alleviate a suffering which is brother to theirs. 
Others, prostrate in resignation, look on. and echo 
what is said above them—" After us the deluge "— 
and the saying passes across town and country in 
one enormous and fantastic breath, for they are 
innumerable who murmur it. Ah, it was well 
said : 

" I have confidence in the abyss of the people." 

And I ? 

1, the normal man ? What have I done on earth ? 
I have bent the knee to the forces which glitter, 
without seeking to know whence they came and 
whither they guide. How have the eyes availed me 
that I had to see with, the intelligence that I had 
to judge with ? 

Borne down by shame, I sobbed, " I don't know ! " 
And I cried out so loud that it seemed to me I was 
awaking for a moment out of slumber. Hands are 
holding and calming me ; they draw my shr.ud 
about me and enclose me. 

It seems to me that a shape has leaned over me, 
quite near, so near ; that a loving voice has said 
something to me ; and then it seems to me that I 
have listened to fond accents whose caress came 
from a great way off : 

" Why shouldn't you be one of them, my lad- 
one of those great prophets ? " 

I don't understand. I ? How could I be ? 

All my thoughts go blurred— I am falling again. 
But I bear away in my eyes the picture of an iron 
bed where lay a rigid shape. Around it, other forms 
were drooping, and one stood and officiated. But 
the curtain of that vision is drawn. A great plain 



i 



r 



1 



208 



LIGHT 



opens the room which has closed for a moment on 
me, and obHterates it. 

Which way may I look ? God ? " Miserere " 

The vibrating fragment of the Litany has reminded 
me of God. 



I have seen Jesus Christ on the margin of the lake. 
He came like an ordinary man along the path. There 
is no halo round his head. He is only disclosed by 
his pallor and his gentleness. Planes of light draw 
near, and mass themselves and fade away around 
him. He shines as in the sky, as he shone on the 
water. As they have told of him, his beard and hair 
are the colour of wjne. He looks upon the immense 
stain made by Christians on the world, a stain con- 
fused and dark, whose edge alone, down by his bare 
feet, has human shape and crimson colour. In the 
middle of it are anthems and burnt sacrifices, files 
of hooded cloaks, and of torturers armed with battle- 
axes, halberds, and bayonets ; and among long 
clouds and thickets of armies, the opposing clash of 
•two crosses which have not quite the same shape. 
Close to him, too, on a canvas wall, again I see the 
cross that bleeds. There are populations, too, 
tearing themselves in twain that they may tear 
themselves the better; there is the ceremonious 
alliance, " turning the needy out of the way," of 
those who wear three crowns and those who wear 
one ; and, whispering in the ear of kings, there are 
grey-haired Eminences, and cunning monks, whose 
hue is of darkness. 

I saw the man of light and simplicity bow his 
head ; and I feel his wonderful voice saying : 

" I did not deserve the evil they have done unto 
me." 

Robbed reformer, he is a witness of his name's 
ferocious glory. The greed-impassioned money- 



DE PROFUNDI S CLAM A VI 209 

changers have long since chased him from the temple 
m their turn, and put the priests in his place. He 
is crucified on every crucifix. 

Yonder amonj,' tlie fields are churrhos, demolished 
by war ; and already men are coming with mattock 
and masonry to raise the walls again, i he ray of 
his outstretched arm shines in space, and his clear 
voice says : 

" Build not the churches again. They are not 
what you think they were. Build them not again." 

There is no remedy but in them whom peace 
condemns to hard labour, and wnom war condemns 
to death. There is no redress except among the 
poor. 






White shapes seem to return into the white room, 
f ruth IS simple. They who say that truth is com- 
plicated deceive themselves, and the truth is not 
in them. I see again, not far from me, a bed, a 
child, a girl-child, who is asleep in our house ; her 
eyes are only two lines. Into our house, after a very 
long time, we have led my old aunt. She approves 
affectionately, but all the same she said, very 
quietly, as she left uie perfection of our rooms " It 
was better in my time." I am thrilled by one of 
our windows whose wings are opened wide upon 
the darkness ; the appeal which the chasm of that 
wmdow makes across the distances enters into me. 
One night, as it seems to me. it was open to its 
heart. 

I— my heart— a gaping heart, enthroned in a 
ladiance of blood. It is mine, it is ours. The heart 
—that wound which we ha\t. I have compassion 
on myself. 

I see again +he rainy shore that I saw before time 



210 



LIGHT 



V i 



was, before earth's drama was unfolded ; and the 
woman on the sands. She moans and weeps, among 
the pictures which the clouds of mortahty offer and 
withdraw, amid that which weaves the rain. She 
iipcaks so low that 1 feel it is to me she speaks. She 
is one with me. Lovi — it comes back to me — Lovt 
is an unhappy man and unhappy women. 

I awake — uttering the feeble ciy of the babe new- 
born. 

All gruws palo, and paler. The whiteness I fore- 
saw through the whirlwinds and clamours — it is 
here. An odour of ether recalls to me the memory 
of an awful memory, but shapeless. A white room, 
white walls, and white-robed women who bend over 
me. 

In a voice confused and hesitant, I say : 

" I've had a dream, an absurd dream." 

My hand goes to my eyes to drive it away. 

" You struggled while you were delirious— especi- 
ally when you thought you were faUing," says a 
calm vni'ie to me, a sedate and familiar voice, which 
know me without my knowing the voice. 

" Yes," I say. 



CHAPTER XVII 



MORNING 



I WENT to sleep in chaos, and then I awoke like 
the first man. 

I am in a bed, in a room. There is no noise — a 
tragedy of calm, and horizons close and massive. 
The bed which imprisons me is one of a row that 
I can see, opposite another row. A long floor goes 
in stripes as far as the distant door. There are tall 
windows, and dayhght wrapped in linen. That is 



it 



MORNING an 

all which exists. I have always been here, I shall 
«nd here. 

Women, white and stealthy, have spoken to me. 
I picked up the new sound, and then lost it. A man 
all in white has sat by me, looked at me, and 
touched me. His eyes shone strangely, because of 
his glasses. 

I sleep, and then they make me drink. 

The long afternoon goes by in the long corridor* 
In the evening they make light ; at night, they put 
it out, and the lamps — which are in rows, Uke the 
beds, like the windows, Hke everything — disappear. 
Just one lamp remains, in the middle, on my right. 
The peaceful ghost of dead things enjoins peace. 
But my eyes are open, I awake more and more. I 
take hold of consciousness in the dark. 

A stir is coming to hfe around me among the 
prostrate forms aligned in the beds. This long room 
is immense ; it has no end. The enshrouded beds 
quiver and cough. They cough on all notes and in 
all ways, loose, dry, or tearing. There is obstructed 
breathing, and gagged breathing, and polluted, and 
sing-song. These people who are struggling \vith 
their huge speech do not know themselves. I see 
their solitude as I see them. There is nothing 
between the beds, nothing. 

Of a sudden I see a globular mass with a moon- 
like face oscillating in the night. With hands held 
out and groping for the rails of the bedsteads, it 
is seeking its way. The orb of its belly distends and 
stretches its shirt like a crinoline, ^nd shortens it. 
The mass is carried by two Uttle and extremely 
slender legs, knobbly at the knees, and the colour of 
string. It reaches the next bed, the one which a 
single ditch separates from mine. On another bed, 
a shadow is swaying regularly, like a doll. The mass 
and the shadow are a negro, whose big murderous 
head is hafted with a tiny neck. 



2Z2 



LIGHT 



The hoarse concert uf lungs and throats multiplir a 
and widens. There are some who raise the arms of 
marionettes out of the boxes of their beds. Others 
remain interred in the grey of the bedclothes. Now 
and again, unsteady ghosts pass througli the room, 
ana stoop between the beds, and one hears the noise 
of a metal pail. At the end of the room, in the dark 
jumble of those blind men who look straight before 
them and the mutes who cough, I only see the nurse, 
because of her whiteness. She goes from one shadow 
to another, and stoops over the motionless. She is 
the vestal virgin, who so far as she can. prevents 
them from going out. 

I turn my head on the pillow. In the bed bracketed 
with mine on the other side, under the glow which 
falls from the only surviving lamp, there is a squat 
mannikin in a heavy knitted vest, poultice-colour. 
From time to time, he sits up in bed. lifts his pointed 
head towards the ceihng. shakes himself; and 
grasping and knocking together his spittoDn and his 
physic-glass, he coughs hke a hon. I am so near to 
him that I feel that hurricane from his flesh pass 
over my face, and the odour of his inward wound. 

' • • • 

I have slept. I see more clearly than yesterday. 
I no longer have the veil that was in front of me. 
My eyes are attracted distinctly by everything which 
moves. A powerful aromatic odour assails me ; I 
seek the source of it. Opposite me. in full daylight, 
a nurse is nibbing with a drug some gnarled and 
blackened hands, enormous paws which the earth 
of the battlefields, where they were too long im- 
planted, has almost made mouldy. The strong- 
smelling liquid is becoming a layer of frothy 
polish. 

The foulness of his hands appals me. Gathering 
my wits with an effort, I said aloud : 



MORNING 



«I3 



" Why don't they wash his han(l< ? " 

My neighbour on t»ic right, tlie gnome in the 
mustard vest, seems to hear me, and shakes his 
head. 

iMy eyer. go back to the other side, und for hours 
I devote myscH to watching in obstinate detail, 
with wide-open eyes, the water-swollen man whom 
I saw floating vaguely in the night like a balloon. 
13y night he was whitish. By day he is yellow, and 
his big eyes are glutted with yellow. He gurgles, 
makes noises of subterranean water, and mingles 
sighs with words and morsels of words. Fits of 
coughing tan his ochreous face. 

His spittoon is always full. It is obvious that his 
heart, where his wasted sulphurate hand is placed, 
beats too hard, and presses his spongy lungs and the 
tumour of water which distends him. He lives in 
the settled notion of emptying his irexhaustiblo 
body. He is constantly examining his bed-bottle, 
and I see his face in that yellow reflection. All day 
I watched the torture and punishment of that body. 
His cap and tunic, no longer in the least like him, 
hang from a nail. 

Oncp when he lay engulfed and choking, he 
pointed to the negro, perpetually oscillating, and 
said : 

"He wanted to kill himself, because he was 
homesick." 

The doctor has said to me, to me, " You're going 
on nicely." I wanted to ask him to talk . j me about 
myself, but there was no time to ask him ! 

Towards evening my yellow-vested neighbour, 
emerging from his meditation and continuing to 
shake his head, answers my question of the morning : 

" They can't wash his hands— it's embedded." 

A little later that day, I became restless. I 
lifted my arm— it was clothed in white hnen. I 
hardly knew my emaciated hand— those fingers 



ai4 



LIGHT 



of an unknown woman! But I recognised the 
identity di»c on my wrist. Ah. then— that wmt 
with me into the depths of hell ! 

For hours on end my head remains empty and 
sleepless, and there are hosts of things that I per- 
ceive badly, which are. and then are not. I have 
answered some questi«)ns. When I say. Yes, it is a 
sigh that I utter, and only that. At other times. I 
seem again to be half swept away into pictures of 
tumoured plains and mountains ci owned. Echoes 
of these things vibrate in my ears, and I wish that 
some one would come who could explain the dreams. 



Strange footsteps arc making the floor creak, and 
stopping there. I open my eyes. A woman is before 
me. Ah, the sight of her throws me into infinite con- 
fusion I She is the woman of my vision. Was it 
true, then ? I look at her, with wide-open eyes. She 
says to me : 
" It's me." 

Then she bends low, and adds softly : 
" I'm Marie ; you're Simon." 
" Ah," I say, " I remember." 
I repeat the profound words she has just uttered. 
She speaks to me again with the voice which comes 
back from far away. I hr.lf rise, I look again, I 
learn myself again, word by word. 

It is she, naturally, who tells me I was wounded 
in the chest and hip, and that I lay three days for- 
saken—ragged wounds, much blood lost, a lot of 
fever, and enormous fatigue. 
" You'll get up soon," she says. 
I get up ?— I, the prostrate being ? I am 
astonished and afraid. 

Marie goes away. She increases my solitude step 
by step, and for a long time my eyes follow her 
going and her absence. 



I 



MORNING 



a»5 



In the evening, I hear a secret and whupered 
conference near the bed of the sick man in the brown 
vest. He is curled up, and breathes humbly. They 
say, very low : 

" He's Roing to die -in one hour from now, or 
two. He's in such a state that to-morrow morning 
he'll be rotten. He must be taken away on the 
moment." 

At nine in the evening they say that, and then 
they put the lights out and go away. I can see 
nothing more but him. There is the one lamp, close 
by, watching over him. He pants, and trickles. 
He shinea as though it rained on him. His beard 
has grown, grimly. His hair is plastered on his 
sticky forehead ; his sv oat is grey. 

In the morning the bed is empty, and adorned 
with clean sheets. 

And along with the man annulled, all the things 
he had poisoned had disappeared. 

" It'll be No. 36's turn next," says the orderly, 

I follow the direction of his glance. I see the 
condemned man. He i* writing a letter. He speaks, 
he lives. But he is wounded in the belly. He 
carries his death like a foetus. 



It is the day when we change our clothes. Some 
of the invalids manage it by themselves ; and 
sitting up in bed, they perform signalling operations 
with arms and white linen. Others are helped by 
the nurse. On their bare flesh I catch sight of scars 
and cavities, and parts stitched and patched, of a 
different shade. There is even a case of amputation 
(and bronchitis) who reveals a new and rosy stump, 
like a new-born infant. The negro docs not move 
while they strip his thin insect-like trunk ; and 
then, bleached once more, he begins ag^in to rock 
his head, looking boundlessly for the sun and for 



ai6 



1. 1 CUT 



!'• 



Africa. They exhume the paralyird man from hU 
•neeti and fhanifp hi<* rlf.thf* impmitc me. At firtt 
he hoi. nmtionli-^H m his rli.in shirt, in a himp. Then 
he makes a guttural noi%e. whirh hring^ the nurw 
np. n a f racked voice. a% of a machine that Hwak<» 
he ask^ her to nu.ve hi<« feet, whirl, arc cauiht in 
the Hheet. I hen he lien Maring. arrang..! in rigid 
orderhneM within tlie iHwirdn ..f his carcase. 

ur^'i"f. '"** n"*"** ^"^^ ""^* •'* *•»'•"« "n a chair. 
\Vc bj»th spell ..ut the nast. which she brings me 
abundantly. My brain is working incalculably. 
We re mute near home. y«)u know." Marie says 

Her words extricate our home, our quarter ; they 
have endless echoes. ^ 

That day I raised myself on the bed and loi,kcd 
out of the window for the first time, although it had 
always been there, within reach of my eyes And I 
saw the sky for the first time, and a grey yard as 
well, where it was visibly cold, and a grey day, an 
ordinary day. like life, like everything. 

Quickly the days wiped each other out. Gradu- 
al y r got up, in the middle of the mm who had 
relapsed into childhood, and were awkwardly Lv • .n- 
rung again or plaintively complaining in their b^ds. 
I have strolled m the wards, and then along a path. 
It is a matter of formalities now -convalescence, and 
in a month s time, the Medical Board. 

At last Marie came one morning ifor me. to go 
home, for that interval. . ^" s" 

nu!^^ 'ri? '"^"" ^I'*' ^""^ •" *^^ y^'^ o^ the hos- 
pital which used to be a school, under the clock- 
which was the only spot where a ray of sunshine 
could get in I was meditating in the middle of an 
assembly of old cripples and men with heads or 
arms bandaged, with ragged and incongruous equip- 
ment with sick clothes. I detached myself from the 
miracle yard and followed Marie, after thankin.r the 
nurse and saying good-bye to her. " ' 



>f () R N I N (. 



^«7 



The corporal of the hmpital ortlirUc^ U the vicar 
of onr rhuri h - he w\ut f>au\ and \^ho ^prrad it ahoui 
that hf wa-* K'>'"K *" share tht soldtrrs' *uf(eriiiKi, 
like all the prifst^. Marie says to me. " Aren't you 
going to sec him ? " ' N«>," I *uv. 

We »ct out for lifo by a shady |)uth, and then the 
liiKh roiid came. \Vc walked slowly. Marie carried 
the buntll I he horizons were even, the earth wa% 
flat and made no noi!»e, and the dome nl the sky no 
longer banged like a big rUxk. 1 he fields were 
cnipty, right to the end. U'cause of the war ; but 
the hnes of the road were scriptural, turning not 
aside to the right hand or to the left . And I , cleansed, 
simplified, lucid— though still astonished at the 
silence and affected by the peacefulnes- — I saw it 
all distinctly, without a veil, without anything. It 
seemed to me that I bore within me a great new 
reason, unused. 

We were not far away. Soon we uncovered the 
past, step by step. As fast as we drew near, smaller 
and smaller details introduced thcniselves and told 
us their names- -that tree, with the stones round it, 
those forsaken and declining sheds, I even found 
recollections shut up in the little rctrcais of the 
kilometre stones. 

But Marie was looking at me with an undefmable 
expression. 

" You're icy cold," she said to me suddenly, 
shivering. 

" No," I said, " no." 

We stopped at an inn to rest and eat, and it was 
already evening when we reached the streets. 

Marie pointed out a man who was crossing over, 
3'onder. 

" Monsieur Rampaillc is rich now, because of the 
war." 

Then it was a woman, dressed in fluttering white 
find blue, disappearing round the corner of a house ; 



2l8 



LIGHT 



" That's Antonia Vdron. She's been in the Red 
Cross service. She's got a decoration because of the 
war." 

" Ah," I said, " everything's changed." 
Now we are in sight of the house. The distance 
between the corner of the street and the house seems 
to me smaller than it should be. The court comes 
to an end suddenly ; its shape is shorter than in 
reahty. In the same way all the memories of my 
former life appear dwindled to me. 

The house, the rooms. I have climbed the stairs 
and come down again, watched by Marie. I have 
recognised everything, some things even which I 
did not see. There is no one else but us two in the 
falling night, as though people had agreed not to 
show themselves yet to this man who comes back 
'There— now we're at home," says Marie at last. 
VV e sit down, facing each other. 
" What are we going to do ? " 
" We're going to live." 
" We're going to live." 

I ponder. She looks at me stealthily, with that 
mysterious expression of anguish which gets over 
me. I notice the precautions she takes in watching 
me. And once it seemed to me that her eyes were 
red with crying. I— I think of the hospital life I 
am leaving, of the grey street, and the simplicity of 
things. ^ ■^ 



A day has shpped away already. In one day, all 
the time gone by has re-estabhshed itself. I am 
become again what I was. Except that I am i ut 
so strong or so calm as before, it is as though nothing 
had happened. '^ 

But truth is more simple than before. 

I inquire of Marie after this one or the other and 
question her. 



MORNING 



219 



Marie says to me : 

" You're always saying, Why ? — like a child," 

All the same I do not talk much. Marie is as- 
siduous ; obviously she is afraid of my silence. 
Once, when I was sitting opposite her and had said 
nothing for a long time :,hc znddenly hid her face 
in her hands, and in i -v turn she ^-ked me, through 
her sobs : 

" Why are you like Ka<^ ? " 

I hesitate. 

" It seems to me," I say at last, by way of answer, 
" that I am seeing things as they are." 

" My poor boy ! " Marie says, and she goes on 
crying. 

I am touched by this obscure trouble. True, 
everything is obvious around me, but as it were 
laid bare. I have lost the secret which compUcated 
life. I no longer have the illusion which distorts and 
conceals, that fervour, that sort of bUnd and un- 
reasoning bravery which tosses you from one hour 
to the next, and from day to day. 

And yet I am just taking up life again where I 
left it. I am upright, I am getting stronger and 
stronger. I am not ending, but beginning. 



I slept profoundly, all alone in our bed. 

Next morning I saw Crillon, planted in the living- 
room downstairs. He held out his arms, and 
shouted. After expressing good wishes, he informs 
me, all in a breath : 

" You don't know what's happened in the Town 
Council ? Down yonder, towards the place they call 
Little January, y'know, there's a steep hill that gets 
wider as it goes down, an' there's a gas-lamp and a 
watchman's box where all the cycUsts that want to 
smash their faces, and a few days ago now a navvy 
comes and sticks himself in there and no one never 



220 



LIGHT 



knew his name, an' he got a cyclist on his head an' 
he s gone dead. And against that gas-lamp broken 
up by blows from cyclists they proposed to put a 
notice-board although all recommendations would 
be superflucnt. You catch on that it's nothing less 
than a manoeuvre to get the mayor's shirt out ? " 

Cnllon's words vanish. As fast as he utters them 
I detach myself from all tiiis poor old stuff. I cannot 
reply to him when he has ceased and Marie and he 
are looking at me. I say, " Ah ! " He coughs, to 
keep me in countenance. Shortly, he takes himself 
off. 

Others come to talk of their affairs and the course 
of events in the district. There is a regular buzz. 
So-and-so has been killed, but So-and-so is made an 
ofhcer. So-and-so has got a clerking job. Here in 
the town So-and-so has got rich. How's the war 
going on ? 

They surround me, with questioning faces. And 
yet It is I, still more than they, who am one immense 
question. 



CHAPTER XVIII 



hi 



E\ES WHICH SEE 

Two days have passed. I get up, dress myself, and 
open my shutters. It is Sunday, as you can sec in 
the street. 

I put on my clothes of former days. I catch myself 
paying spruce attention to my toilet, since it is 
Sunday, by reason of the compulsion one feels to do 
the same things again. 

And now I see how much my face has hollowed 
as I compare it with the one I had left behind in the 
familiar mirror. 



EYES WHICH SEE 



221 



I go out, and meet several people. Madame Piot 
asks me how many of the enemy I have killed. I 
reply that I kii id one. Her tittle-tattle accosts 
another subject. I feel the enormous difference 
there was between what she asked me and what I 
answered. 

The streets are clad in the mourning of closed 
shops. It is still the same empty and hermetic ''y 
sealed face of the day of hohday. My eyes m , 
near the sunken post, the old jam pot, which has not 
moved. 

I cHmb on to Chestnut Hill. No one is there, 
because it is Sunday. In that white winding-sheet, 
that widespread pallor of Sunday, all my former lot 
builds itself again, house by house. 

I look outwards from the top of the hill. All is 
the same in the lines and the tones. The spectacle 
of yesterday and that of to-day are as identical as 
two picture postcards. I see my house — the roof, 
and three-quarter? of the front. I feel a pleasant 
thrill. I feel that I love this corner of the earth, but 
especially my house. 

What, is everyth'-' the same ? Is there nothing 
new, nothing ? L- nly changed thing the man 

that I am, walking . .owly in clothes too big, the 
man grown old and leaning on a stick ? 

The landscape is barren in the inextricable sim- 
pUcity of the dayhght. I do not know why I was 
expecting revelations. In vain my gaze wanders 
everywhere, to infinity. 

But a darkening of storm fills and agitates the 
sky, and suddenly clothes the morning with a look 
of evening. The crowd which I see yonder along the 
avenue, under cover of the great twilight which goes 
by with its invisible harmony, profoundly draws my 
attention. 

All those shadows which are shelling themselves 
out along the road are very tiny, they are separated 



222 



LIGHT 



from one another, they are of the same stature. 
From a distance one sees how much one man 
resembles another. And it is true that a man is 
hke a man. The one is not of a different species 
from the other. It is a cortainf which I am bring- 
ing forward— the only one ; an^ the truth is simple, 
for what I beheve I see with my eyes. 

The equality of all those human spots that appear 
in the sombre gleams of storm, why— it is a revela- 
tion ! It is a beginning of distinct order in Chaos. 
How comes it that I have never seen what is so 
visible, how comes it that I never perceived that 
obvious thing— that a man and another man are the 
same tning. everywhere and always ? I rejoice that 
I have seen it. as if my desti.iy were to shed a little 
light on us and on our road. 



The bells are summoning our eyes to the church. 
It is surrounded by scaffolding, and a long swarm 
of people are gliding towards it, groping round it 
going in. 

The earth, and the sky-.-but I do not see God. 
I see everywhere, everywhere, God's absence. My 
gaze goes through space and returns, forsaken. And 
I have never seen him, and he is nowhere, nowhere, 
nowhere. 

No one ever saw him. I know— I always knew, 
for that matter .'—that there is no proof of God's 
existence, and that you must first of all believe in it 
if you want to prove it. Where does he show him- 
self ? What does he save ? What tortures of the 
heart, what disasters does he turn aside from all 
and each in the ruin of hearts ? Where have we 
known or handled or embraced anything but his 
name ? God's absence surrounds infinitely and even 
actually each kneehng suppliant, athirst for some 
humble personal miracle, and each seeker who bends 



EYES WHICH SEE 



223 



)ver hi papers as he watches for proofs Hke a creator; 
It surrounds the spiteful antagonism of all reUgions, 
armed against each other, enormous and bloody. 
God's absence rises like the sky over the agonising 
conflicts between good and evil, over the trembling 
hecdfulness of the upright, over the immensity — 
still haunting me— of the cemeteries of agony, the 
charnel-heaps of innocent soldiers, the heavy cries 
of the shipwrecked. Absence ! Absence ! In the 
hundred thousand years that Ufe has tried to delay 
death, there has been nothing on earth more fruitless 
than man's cries to divinity, nothing which gives 
so perfect an idea of silence. 

How does it come about that I have lasted till 
now without understanding that I did not see God ? 
I believed because they had told me to believe. It 
seems to me that I am able to believe something no 
longer because they command me to, and I feel 
myself set free. 

I lean on the stones of the low wall, at the spot 
where I leaned of old, in the time when I thought I 
was some one and knew something. 

My looks fall on the families and the single figures 
which are hurrying towards the black hole of the 
church porch, towards the gloom of the nave, where 
one is enlaced in incense, where wheels of hght and 
angels of colour hover under the vaults which con- 
tain a little of the great emptiness of the heavens. 

I seem to stoop nearer to those people, and I get 
glimpses of certain profundities among the fleeting 
pictures which my sight lends me. I seem to have 
stopped, at random, in front of the richness of a 
single being. I think of the " humble quiet lives," 
and it appears to me that people are too quick 
to determine their reality within a few v/ords, 
and that in what they call a " quiet lowly life " 
there are immense expectations and waitmgs and 
weariness. 



224 



LIGHT 



! ! ! 



m 



I understand why they want to believe in God 
and consequently why they do believe in him, since 
faith comes at will. 

I remember, while I lean on this wall and listen 
that one day in the past not far from here a lowly 
woman raised her voice and said : 

"That woman does not believe in God! Its 
because she has no children, or else because they've 
never been ill." 

And I remember, too, without being able to pic- 
ture them to myself, all the voices I have heard 
saying : 

" It would be too unjust if there were no God ! " 

There is no other proof of God's existence than 
the need we have of him. God is not God— he is the 
name of all th«ii we lack. He is our dream, carried 
to the sky. God is a prayer, he is not some one. 

They put all his kind actions into the eternal 
future, they hide them in the unknown. Their 
agomsmg dues they drown in distances which out- 
distance them ; they cancel his contradictions in 
maccessible uncertainty. No matter ; thev believe 
in the idol made of a word. 

And I ? I have awaked out of religion, since it 
was a dream. It had to be, that one morning my 
eyes would end by opening and seeing nothing more 
of it. 

I do not see God, but I see the church and I see 
the priests. Another ceremony is unfolding just 
now, in another direction— up at the castle, a Mass 
of St. Hubert. Leaning on my elbows, the spectacle 
absorbs me. 

These ministers of the cult, blessing this pack ot 
hounds, these guns and hunting-knives, officiating 
m lace and pomp side by side with these wealthy 
people got up as warUke sportsmen, women and men 
aUke. on the great steps of a castle and facing a 
crowd kept aloof by ropes— this spectacle defines. 



EYES WHK H SEE 



225 



inorr* glaringly than any words whatever can, the 
distance which separates the churrhes of to-day 
from Christ's teaching, and points to all the gilded 
puiridity whicli has accumulated on those puif de- 
faced bcginnnigs. And what is lierc is everywhore ; 
what is little is great. 

The parsons, the powerful— all always joined 
together. Ah, certainty is rising to the heart of my 
conscience. Religions destroy themselves spiritually 
because they are many. They destroy whatever 
leans upon their fables. But their directors, they 
who are the strength of the idol, impose it. They 
decree authority ; they hide the light. They arc 
men, defending their interests as men ; they are 
rulers, defending their sway. 

It has to be ! You shall vol know ! A terrible 
memory shudders through me ; and I catch a con- 
fused glimpse of people who, for the needs of their 
common cause, uphold, with their promises and 
thunder, the mad unhappiness which lies heavy on 
the multitudes. 



m 



Footsteps are climbing towards me. Marie 
appears, dressed in grey. She comes to look for me. 
In the distance I saw that her checks were brightened 
and rejuvenated by the wind. Close by, I see that 
her eyelids are worn, like silk. She fmds me sunk 
in reflection. She looks at me, like a frail and 
frightened mother ; and this solicitude which she 
brings me is enough by itself to calm and comfort 
me. 

I point out to her the dressed-up commotion 
below us, and make some bitter remark on the folly 
of these people who vainly gather in the church, and 
go to pray there, to talk all alone. Some of them 
bdieve ; and the rest say to them. " I do the same 
as you." 



220 



1. 1 r. H T 



Ipl. 



Il^l 



'ii ' '' 
111 



Marie docs not argue ttic basis of religion ; 
" Ah," she says, " I've never thought clearly 
about it, never. They've always spoken of God to 
mc, and I've always believed in him. Hut- I don't 
know — I only know one thing," she adds, her blue 
eyes looking at me, " and that is thut there must be 
delusion. The people must have religion, so as to 

put up with the hardships of life, the sacrifices " 

She goes on again at once, more emphatically : 
" There must be religion for the unhappy, so that 
they won't give way. It may be foolishness, but if 
you take that away from them, what have they 
left ? " 

The gentle woman — the normal woman of settled 
habits— whom I had left there, repeats : " There 
must be illusion." She sticks to this idea, she insists, 
she is taking the side of the unhappy. Perhaps she 
talks like that for her own sake, and perhaps only 
because she is compassionate for me. 
1 said in vain : 

" No — there must never be delusion, never falla- 
cies. There should be no more lies. We shouldn't 
know then where we're going." 
She persists and makes signs of dissent. 
I say no more, tired. But I do not lower my 
gaze before the all-powert\il surroundings of cir- 
cumstance. My eyes are pitiless, and cannot help 
descrying the false God and the false priests every- 
where. 

We go down the footpaths, and return in silence. 
But it seems to me that the rule of evil is hidden in 
easy security among the illusions which they heap 
up over us. I am nothing, I am no more than I was 
before, but I am applying my hunger for the tsuth. 
I tell myself again that there is no supernatural 
power, that nothing has fallen from the sky, that 
everything is within us and in our hands. And in 
the inspiration of that faith, my eyes embrace the 



it 



EYES WHICH SEE 



227 



magmticence of the empty sky, the abounding Ue»ert 

'■ »ssible. 

Marie say* 



'aradise 

We pass along the base of the church, 
to me — as if nothing liad just been said 

" Look how the poor churcli was damaged by a 
bomb from an aeroplane — all one side of the steeple 
gone. The good old vicar was quite ill about it. As 
soon as he got up he did nothing else but try to raise 
money to have his dear steeple built up again. And 
he got it." 

People are revolvng r >und the building and 
measuring its yawning mutilation with their eyes. 
My thoughts turn to all these passers-by, and to all 
those who will pass by, whom I shall not see, c nd to 
other wounded steeples. The most beautiful of all 
voices echoes within me, and I would fain make use 
of it for this entreaty : 

" Build not the churches again ! You who will 
come after us, you who, in the sharp distinctness of 
the ended deluge, will i>erhaps be able to see the 
order of things more clearly, don't build the churches 
again ! They did not contain what we used to be- 
lieve, and for centuries they have only been the 
prisons of the saviours, and monumental lies. If 
you are still of the faith, have your temples within 
yourselves. But if you again bring stones to build 
up a narrow and evil tradition, that is the end of all. 
In the name of justice, i the name of light, in the 
name of pity, do not build the churches again ! " 

But I did not say anything. I bow my head, and 
walk more heavily. 

I see Madame Marcassin coming out of the church 
with blinking eyes, weary-looking, a widow indeed. 
I bow and approach her, and talk to her a little, 
humbly, about her husband, since I was under his 
orders, and saw him die. She listens to me in de- 
jected inattention. She is elsewhere. She says to 
me at last : "I had a memorial service, since it's 



838 



LIGHT 



usual." Then she maintains a sikncc which mean*!, 
" There's nothin« to be said, just as there's nothing 
to be done." In face of that cmptinc**, I understand 
the crime that Marcassin committed in letting him- 
self be killed for nothing but the glory of dying. 



CHAPTER XIX 



GHOSTS 

We have gone out together, aimlessly ; we walk 
straight forward. 

It is an autumnal day — grey lace of clouds, and 
wind. Some dead leaves Ue on the ground, and 
others go whirling. We are in August, but it is 
an autumn day all the same. Days do not allow 
themselves to be set in strict order, like men. 

Our steps -Ve us in the direction of the waterfall 
and the n iV We have seldom been there again 
since our engagement days. Marie is covered in a 
big grey cloak ; her hat is black silk, with a httle 
square of colour embroidered in front. She looks 
tired, and her eyes are red. When she walks in 
front of me, I sec the twisted mass of her beautiful 
fair hair. 

Instinctively, we both looked for the inscriptions 
we cut, once upon a time, on trees and on stones, in 
foolish delight. We sought them like scattered 
treasure, on the strange cheeks of the old willows, 
near the tendrils of the fall, on the birches that 
stand like candles in front of the violet thicket, and 
on the old fir which so often sheltered us with its 
dark wings. Many inscriptions have disappeared. 
Some are worn away because things do ; some arc 
covered by a host of other inscriptions, or they are 



GHOSTS 



aJ9 



di»torted and ugly. Nearly ait have (KisMKt on a« if 
they had been pa*scrs-bv. 

Marie U tired. She often tits down, with her bif 
cluak and her sensible air ; and as siic sits, she 
seems like a statue of nature, of space, and the 
wind. 

We do not speak. We have gone down along the 
side of the river — slowly, an if we were climbing — 
towards the stone seat of the wall. The distances 
have altered. This scat, for instance, we meet it 
sooner than we thought wc should, Ukc some one 
in the dark ; but it is the seat all right. The rose- 
tree which grew above it has withered away, and 
become a crown of thorns. 

There arc dead leaves on the stone slab. They 
come from the chestnuts yonder. They fell on the 
ground, and yet they liave flown away as far as the 
seat. 

On this seat — where she came to me for the first 
time, which was once so important to us that it 
seemed as if the background of things all about us 
had been created by us — we sit down to-day, after 
wc have vainly sought in nature the traces of our 
transit. 

The landscape is peaceful, simple, empty ; it (ills 
us with a great quivering. Marie is so sad and so 
!• ^e that you can see her thought. 

* nave leaned forward, my elbows on my knees. 
I have contemplated the gravel at my feet ; and 
suddenly I start, for I understand that my eyes were 
looking for the final, sacred proof, for the marlcs of 
our footsteps, in spite of the stone, in sp'te of the 
sand. 

After the solemnity of a long silence, Marie's face 
takes on a look of defeat, and suddenly she begins 
to cry. The tears which fill her, for one always weeps 
in full, drop on to her knees. And through her sobs 
there fall from her wet lips words almos>i shape- 



g ■ 



m 



330 



LIGHT 



I 



lew. but di'jipcrate and fierce, as a burst o( forced 
laughter 
" It't all over I " the crtet. 



I have put my arm round her wai«t. and I am 
ihaken by the sorrow which agitates her chest and 
throat and sometinn . Hhakcii her rudely, the st»rrow 
which d«wH not belong to me, which belongs to nc 
one. and in like a divinity. 

She becomes composed. I take her hand. In ;i 
w«ak voi<e she calls some memories up— this, and 

that . and " one morning ." She applies herself U> 

It. and counts them. I speak too, gently. \\V 
question each other— *• Do you remember ? "- 
'■ Oh, yes " ; and when some more precise and 
intimate detail prompts the question, we only rcpb , 
"A little." Our sti)aration and the great happen- 
ings past which the world lia.s whirled have mado 
the past recoil, and shaped a dec p ditch. Nothing 
has changed ; but when we l(X)k. we see. 

Once, after we had recalled to each other an 
enchanted summer evening, I said, " We loved 
each other," and she answered. " I remember." 

I call her by her name, in a low voici , so as to 
draw her out (.f the dumbness into which she is 
falhng. 

She listens to uie, and then says, placidly 
despairingly; 

" ' Marie '—you used to say it like that. I cant 
realise that I had the samt name " 

A few mf)ments later, as we talked of somethiiiL' 
else, she said to me at last : 

" Ah, that day we had dreams of travel, about 
our plans— >'ow ztere there, sitting bv my side." 

In those former times, we lived, .now, we fiardly 
live any mure, since we have H\ed. They who wi 
were are dead, for we are here Her glances conu 



GHOSTS 



aji 



to mc. but they do not join again the two turviving 
void* that wc are ; her Uxik doe« not m\)e ovf our 
widowhoo<l. nor changes anything. And I. I am 
too toibiu'd with clcar-^ightcd simpticity and truth 
to answer " no " wlicn it U " ye»." In this moment, 
by my side, Marie is Hke me. 

The immense mourning of human hearts ap, earn 
to us. We dare not name it yet ; but wc dare not 
Itt It not appear in all that we say. 



Then wc see a woman, climbing the footpath and 
coming nearer to us. It is Murthc, grown up, full 
blown. She says a few words to us and tlun goes 
away, smiling. She smiles, she who plays a part in 
our drama. The likeness which formerly haiuited 
me now haunts Marie to«> — both of us, side b\ side, 
and without saying it, harboured the same thought, 
to see that child growing up and showing what Marie 
was. 

Marie confesses all, all at once : 

" I was only my youth and my beauty, like all 
women And there go my youth and beauty — 
Marthe ! Then. I ? " 

In anguish she goes on : 

" I'm not old yet, since I'm only thirty-fivo, but 
I've aged very quickly ; I've some white hairs, that 
you can see close to ; I'm wrinkled and my eyes 
have sunk. I'm here, in hfe, to live, to occupy my 
time. But I'm nothing more than I am ! Of 
course, I'm still alive, but the future comes to an 
end before life does. Ah, it's really only youth that 
has a place in life. All young faces are alike and go 
from one to the other without ever being deceived. 
They wipe out and destroy all the rest, and they 
make the others see themselves as they are, so that 
they become useless." 

She is right. When the young woman stands up, 



332 



LIGHT 



il^ 



l|: 



fn fhl h '" ^u'* *^^ °*^^^'^ P^a<=e in the ideal and 
in the human heart, and makes of the other a return 
mg ghost. It is true. I knew it. A^I dfd not' 

deny it Agam a cry of assent rises to my hps and 
prevents me from saying " No " ^ 

as^ToTat^W r^y ''"'^"^ ^^^^^'^ ^d^ent. nor 
K u u ^^ ^^^' ^^^^ recognising Marie. I know 
she has had several httle love affaifs. Just now sh^ 
IS alone. She is alone, but she will soon be leanTig-- 
yes. phantom or reahty. man is not far from her 
It IS dazzhng. Most certainly. I no longer th?nk as 
I used to do that it is a sort of duty to^atis y the 
selfish promptings one has. and I have now got an 
nward veneration for right-doing ; but all the^same 
If that being came to me. I know well that I should 

c^'oTde^/hT ^" ^"' ^" ^^^^^ ^' ^"' - --nie 
^^Marie faUs back upon her idea, obdurately, and 

M^^ woman only hves by love and for love 
men she's no longer good for that, she's no longer 

She repeats : 

"You see— I'm nothing any more." 
Ah. she IS at the bottom of her abyss ! She is at 
the cxcremi y of a woman's mourning ! She is no 
thinking only of me. Her thought is higheJ and 
alf th';. f' ''- '^H^^"^ «^ ^" the^oman fhe is of 
says. I m no longer anything." And I—l am 
only he who is present 4h her just now an^ 
no^help whatever is left her to look^ for from any 

I should like to pacify and console this woman 
who IS gentleness and simplicity-and who is SnS 
there while she lightly touches^ with her pret^"? 
-but exactly because she is there I cannot Te to 



GHOSTS 



233 



"Ah ! " she cries. " if we came to life again ' " 
hv fhi f ^' *°°' ^^^ tried to cling to iUusiSn. I see 
at^h^r tw ""i^'l tears-and because I am looking 
at her-that she has powdered her face to-day and 
put rouge on her lips, perhaps even on her cheeks 

off tsohe of 'jrTV^^'^' ^^"^^""^' *° ''' ^-'''^ 
ott, in spite of me. This woman who tries to keen a 

good hkeness of herself through passing time to be 
fixed upon herself, who paints heLlf. fhe S to tha? 
™.n fi\ T^' Kembrandt the profound and 
Titian the bold and exquisite did- make enduring, 
and save ! But this time, a few tears have washed 
away the fragile, mortal effort. 

She tnes also to delude herself with words, and 
to discover something in them which would trans 

'^Therp'mn .^ f '' n'' ^' '^^ ^^^ *^^^ ^^^er morning. 
There must be illusion. No, we must not see 
things as they are." But I see clearly hat such 
words do not exist. ^ 

she^'mu'^iTured:'' "'^ ^°°'"^ '' "^ distressfully, 
you f^?"~'y°'''^^ "° '"ore illusion at all. I pity 

At that moment, within the space of a flash she 
was thinking of me only, and she pities mef 'she 
has found something in her grief to ^ve me. 

Dlaint '\S'"*; ^^^ '' 'r^^"S *^^ ^"P^eme com- 
plaint , she IS trying to find what there is which 

Lmrrs?"^"""^ ^^' "^^^^ ^-P^^^ ^-^^ 
" The truth." 

sea^.on ^^ '' *^^* *^^ ^^"^^ °^ "^^"^i"d is a single 
season among so many others. The truth is that 
we have within us something much more morta 
than we are, and that it is this, all the same, which is 
all-important. Therefore we survive ve^y much 



234 



LIGHT 



longer than we live. There are things we think wt 
know and which yet are secrets. Do we really know 
what we believe ? We believe in miracles. We 
make great efforts to struggle, to go mad. We 
should like to let all our good deserts be seen. We 
fancy that we are exceptions, and that something 
supernatural is going to come along. But the quiet 
peace of the truth fixes us. The impossible becomes 
agam the impossible. We are as silent as silence 
itself. 

We stayed lonely on the seat until evening. Our 
hands and faces shone like gleams of storm in the 
entombment of the calm and the mist. 

We go back home. We wait, and then have 
dmner. We live these few hours. And we see our- 
selves alone in the house, facing each other, as never 
we saw ourselves, and we do not know what to do ! 
It is a real drama of vacancy which is breaking loose. 
We are Uving together. Our movements are in 
harmony, they touch, and mingle. But all of it is 
empty. We do not long for each other, we can no 
longer expect each other, we have no dreams, we 
are not happy. It is a sort of imitation of life by 
phantoms, by beings who. in the distance, are 
beings ; but close by— so close !— are phantoms. 

Then bedtime comes. She is sleeping in the little 
bedroom opposite mine across the landing, less fine 
than mine and smaller, hung with an old and faded 
paper, where the patterned flowers are only an 
irregular rehef , with traces here and there of powder, 
of coloured dust and ashes. 

We are going to separate on the landing. To- 
day is not the first time like that ; but to-day, we 
are feeling this great rending which is not one 

She has begun to undress. She has taken off her 
blouse. I see her neck and her breasts, a little less 
firm than before, through her chemise ; and, half 
tumbling on to the nape of her neck, the fair hair 



GHOSTS 



235 



which once magnificently flamed on her Ukc a fire 
of straw. 

She only says, " It's better to be a man than a 
woman." 

Then she replies to my silence : 

" You see. We don't know what to say, now." 

In the angle of the narrow doorway, she spoke 
with a kind of immensity. 

She goes into her room, and disappears. Before. 
I went to the war we slept in the same bed. We 
used to lie down side by side, so as to be annihilated 
in unconsciousness, or to go and dream somewhere 
else. (Commonplace Ufe has shipwrecks worse 
than in Shakespearean dramas. For man and wife 
— to sleep, to die.) But since I came back, we 
separate ourselves with a wall. This sincerity that 
I have brought back in my eyes and mind has 
changed the semblances round auout me into 
reality, more than I imagine. Marie is hiding from 
me her faded but disregarded body. Her modesty 
has begun again ; yes, she has ended by beginning 
again. 

She has shut her door. She is undressing, alone 
in her room, slowly, and as if uselessly. There is 
only the light of her Uttle lamp to caress her loosened 
hair, in which the others cannot yet see the white 
ones, the frosty hairs that she alone touches. 

Her door is shut, decisive, banal, dreary. 

Among some papers on my table, I see the poem 
again which we once found out of doors, the bit of 
paper escaped from the mysterious hands which 
wrote on it, and come to the stone seat. It ended 
by whispering : " Only I know the tears that 
brimming start, your beauty blended with your 
smile to espy." 

In the days of yore, it had made us smile with 
delight. To-night, there are real tears in my eyes. 
What is it ? I dimly see that there is something 



236 



LIGHT 



more than what we have seen, than what we ha\e 
said, than what we have felt, to-day. One day, 
perhaps, she and I will exchange better and richer 
sayings ; and so, in that day, all the sadness will be 
of some service. 



CHAPTER XX 



THE CULT 

I HAVE been to the factory. I felt as much lost as 
if I had found myself translated there after a sleep 
of legendary length. There are many new faces. 
The factory has tripled—quadrupled in importance ; 
quite a town of flimsy buildings has been added to it. 

"They've built seven others like it in three 
months ! " says Monsieur Mielvaque to me proudly. 

The manager is now another young nephew of the 
Messrs. Gozlan. He was living in Paris, and came 
back on the day of the general mobilisation. Old 
Monsieur Gozlan looks after everything. 

I have a month to wait. I wait slowly, as every- 
body does. The houses in the lower town are peopled 
by absentees. When you go in, they talk to you 
about the last letter, and always make the same 
huge and barren reflections on the war. In my street 
there are twelve houses where the people no longer 
await anything, and have nothing to say, like 
Madame Marcassin. In some others, the one who 
has disappeared will perhaps come back ; and they 
go about in them in a sort of hope which leans only 
on emptiness and silence. There are women who 
have begun their lives again in a kind of happy 
misery. 1 he places near them of the dead or the 
Uving they have filled up. 

The main streets have not changed, any mort 



THE CULT 



237 



than the squares, except the one which iS encrusted 
Nvith a collection of huts. The life in them is us 
bustling as ever, and of brighter colour, and more 
amusing. Many young men, rich or influential, are 
passing their war-time in the otlices of the Depot 
of the Exchange, of Food Control, of Enlistment, of 
the Pay Department, and other administrations 
whose names one cannot remember. The priests 
are swarming in the two hospitals ; on the faces of 
orderlies, cyclist messengers, doorkeepers and porters 
you can read their origin. For myself, I have never 
seen a parson in the front lines wearing the uniform 
of the ordinary lighting soldier, the uniform of those 
who make up the fatigue parties, and fight as well 
again-'t perfect misery ! 

My thought turns to what the man once said to 
me who was by me among the straw of a stable : 
" Why is there no more justice ? " By the little 
that I know and have seen and am seeing, I can tell 
what an enormous rush sprang up, at the same time 
as the war, against the equality of the living. And 
if that injustice, which was turning the heroism of the 
others into a cheat, has not been openly extended, 
it is because the war has lasted too long, and the 
scandal became so glaring that they were forced to 
look into it. It seems that it is only through fear 
that they have ended by deciding so much. 



I go into Fontan's. Crillon is with me— I picked 
him up from the Httle glass cupboard of his shop as 
I came out. He is finding it harder and harder to 
keep going ; he has aged a lot, and his frame, so 
powerfully bolted together, cracks with rheumatism. 

We sit down. Crillon groans and bends so low in 
his hand-to-hand struggle with the pains which beset 
him that I think his forehead is going to strike the 
marble-topped table. 



238 



LIGHT 



He tells me in detail of his little business, which is 
going badly, and how he has confused glimpses of the 
bare and empty future which awaits him— when a 
sergeant with a fair moustache and eyeglasses makes 
his entry. This personage, whose collar ihows white 
thunderbolts* instead of a number, comes and sits 
near us. He orders a port wine, and Victorine 
serves it with a smile. She smiles at random, and 
indistinctly, at all the men, like Nature. 

The new-comer takes off his cap, looks at the 
windows, and yawns. 
" I'm bored," he says. 

He comes nearer, and presents us with his talk. 
He sets himself chattering, with spirited and easy 
grace, of men and things. He works at the Town 
Hall and knows a lot of secrets, which he lets us 
into. He points to a couple of sippers at a table in 
the corner reserved for commsrcial people : 

" The grocer and the ironmonger," he says ; 
" there's two that know how to go about it 1 At the 
beginning of the war there was a business crisis by 
the force of things, and they had to tighten their 
belts like the rest. Then they got their revenge, and 
swept the dibs in, and hoarded stuff up, and specu- 
lated, and they're still revenging themselves. You 
should see the stocks of goods they sit on in their 
cellars, and wait for the rises that the newspapers 
foretell I They've got one excuse, it's true — there 
are others, bigger people, that are worse. Ah, you 
can say that the business people will have given 
a rich notion of their patriotism during the 
war ! " 

The fair young man stretches himself backward 
to his full length, with his heels together on the 
ground, his arms rigid on the table, and opens his 
mouth with all his might and for a long time. Then 
he goes on in a loud voice, careless who hears him : 

i See page 147, footnote. — Tr. 



THE CULT 



239 



" Why. I saw the other day. at the Town Hall, 
piles of the Declarations of Profits, required by the 
Treasury. I don't know, of course, for I've not read 
them, but I'm as sure and certain as you are that all 
those innumerable piles of declarations are just so 
many columns of cod and humbug and Ues I " 

Intelligent and inexhaustible, accurately posted 
tlirough the clerk's job in which he is sheltering, the 
sergeant relates with careless gestures his stories of 
scandals and huge profiteering, " while our good 
fellows are fighting " ; he talks and talks, ^nd con- 
cludes by saying that after all hf doesn't care a 
damn as long as they let him alone. 

Monsieur Fontan is in the cafd. A woman leads 
up to him a tottering being whom she introduces 
to him : 

" He's ill, Monsieur Fontan, because he doesn't 
get enough to eat." 

"Well, now! And I'm ill, too," says Fontan 
jovially, " but it's because I eat too much." 

The sergeant takes his leave, touching us with a 
slight salute. 

" He's right, that smart gentleman," says Crillon 
to me. " It's always been hke that, and it will 
always be like that, you know ! " 

Aloof, I keep silence. I am still tired and stunned 
by all these sayings in the little time since I re- 
mained so long without hearing anything but my- 
self But I am sure they are all rue, and that 
patriotism is only a word or a tool for many. And 
feeling the rags of the common soldier still on me, 
I knit my brows, and realise that it is a disgrace and 
a shame for the poor to be deceived as they are. 

Crillon is smiling, as always ! On his huge face, 
where every passing day now leaves some marks, on 
his round-eyed weakened face with its mouth opened 
like a cipher, the old smile of yore is spread out. I 
used to think then that resignation was a virtue ; 



240 LIGHT 

I sec now that it is a vice. The optimist is tlic 
permanent accomplice of all evildoers. This 
passive smile which I admired but lately— I find 
It despicable on this poor face. 

• ••••■ 

The caf^ has filled up with workmen, either old or 
very young, from the town and the country, but 
chiefly the country. 

What are they doing, these lowly, these ill-paid ? 
They are dirty and they arc drinking. They arc 
dark, althoii h it is the forenoon, because they are 
dirty. In the light there is that obscurity which 
they carry on them ; and a bad smell removes itself 
with them. 

I see three convalescent soldiers from the hospital 
join the plebeian groups ; they are recognised by 
their coarse clothes, their caps and big boots, and 
because their gestures are soldered together and 
conform to a common movement. 

By force of " glasses all round," these drinkers 
begin to talk in loud voices, they get excited and 
shout at random ; and in the end they drop visibly 
into unconsciousness, into oblivion, into defeat. 

The wine merchant is at his cash-desk, which 
shines like silver. He stands behind the centre of 
it, colourless, motionless, Uke a bust on a pedestal. 
His bare arms hang down, palUd as his face. He 
comes and wipes away some spilled wine, and his 
hands shine and drip, like a butcher's. 



" I'm forgetting to tell you," cried Crillon, " that 
they had news of your regiment a few days ago. 
Little M^lusson's had his head blown to bits in an 
attack. Here, y'know, he was a softy and an idler. 
Well, he was attacking like a devil. War remakes 
men like that 1 " 



THE CULT a4i 

•Termite?" I atked. 

" Ah. ytf ' Tennitc the poacher I Why it's a long 
time since they haven't seen him. Disappeared, it 
seems. S 'pose he's killed." 

Then he talks to me of this place : Brisbillc, 
for instance, always the same, a Socialist and a 
scandal. 

" There's him." says Crillon, " and that dangerous 
chap Eudo as well, with his notorient civihties. 
Would you believe it. they've not been able to pinch 
him for his spying proclensities ! Nothing in his 
past life, nothing in his conductions, nothing in his 
expenditure, nothing to find fault with. Mustn't he 
be a deep one ! " 

I presume to think— suppose it was all untrue ? 
Yet It seemed a formidable task to upset on the spot 
one of the oldest and most deeply rooted creeds in 
our town. But I risk it : 

" Perhaps he's innocent." 

Crillon jumps, and shouts : 

" What ! You suspect him of being innocent I " 

His face is convulsed ; and he explodes with an 
enormous laugh, a laugh irresistible as a tidal wave, 
the laugh of all ! 

" Talking about Termite," says Crillon a moment 
later, " it seems it wasn't him that did the poaching." 

The miUtary convalescents are leaving the ' 
Crillon watches them go away with their parallel 
movements and their sticks. 

" Yes, there's wounded here and there's dtad 
there I " he says ; " all those who hadn't got a privi- 
lential situation ! Ah, la, la ! The poor devils, when 
you thmk of it, eh ? what they must have suffered ! 
And at this moment, all the time, th ire's some dying. 
And we stand it very well, an' hardly think of it. 
They didn't need to kHl so many, that's certain— 
there's been faults and blunders, as everybc'dy knows 
of. But fortunately," he adds with animation, 



24^ 



LIGHT 



putting on my shoulder the hand that it big as a 
young animal, " the soldiers' deaths and the chiefs' 
blunders, that'll all disappear one fine day, melted 
away and forgotten in the glory of the victorious 
Commander I 



There has been much talk in our quarter of a 
Memorial Festival. 

I am not anxious to be present, and I watch Marie 
set off. Then I feel myself impelled to go there, as 
il it were a duty. 

I cross the bridge. I stop at the comer of the 
Old Road, on the edge of the fields. Two steps away 
there is the, cemetery, which is hardly growing, since 
nearly all those who die now are not anywhere. 

I lift my eyes and take in the whole spectacle 
together. 

The hill which rises in front of me is full of people. 
It trembles like a swarm of bees. Up above, on the 
avenue of trimmed lime trees, it is crowned by the 
sunshine and by the red platform, which scintillates 
with the richness of Presses and uniforms and musical 
instruments. 

Then there is a red barrier. On thi? Je of that 
barrier, lower down, the public swam? *nd rustles, 

I recognise tie great picture of the past. I 
remember this ceremony, spacious as a season, 
which has been regularly staged here so many times 
in the course of my childhood and youth, and with 
almost the same rites and fomis. It was like this 
last year, and t »e other years, and a century ago, 
and centuries ago. 

Nea me, an old peasant in sabots is planted. 
Rags shapeless and colourless — the colour of time — 
cover the eternal man of the fields. He is what he 
always was. He blinks, leaning on a stick ; he holds 
his cap in his hand, because what he sees is so like a 



THE CULT 



243 



church lervicc. Hb leg* are trrmbUng ; he wonders 
if he ought to be kneeling. 

And r I ie*i\ myself diminished, cut back. rttuinfK! 
through the cycles of time to the little that I am. 



Up there, borne by the flag-draped rostnmi, a 
man is speaking. He lifts a sculptural Iicad aloft, 
whose hair is white as marble. 

At my distance I can hardly hear him. But the 
wind carries me some phrases, louder shouted, of 
his peroration. He is preaching resignation to the 
people, and the continuance of things. He implores 
them to abandon fmally the accursed war of classes, 
to devote themselves for ever to the blessed war of 
races in all its shapes. After the war there must be 
no more social Utopias, but discipline instead, whose 
grandeur and beauty the war has happily revealed, 
the union of rich and poor for national expansion 
and the victory of France in the world, and sacred 
hatred of the Germans, which is a virtue in the 
French. Lest we forget I 

Then another orator excites himself and shouts 
that the war has been such a magnificent harvest 
of heroism that it must not be regretted. It has been 
a good thing for France ; it has made lofty virtues 
and noble instincts gush forth from a nation which 
seemed to be decadent. Our people had need of an 
awakening, and to recover themselves, and acquire 
new vigour. With metaphors which hover and 
vibrate, he proclaims the glory of kiUing and being 
killed, he exalts the ancient passion for plumes and 
scarlet in which the heart of France is moulded. 

Alone on the edge of the crowd I feel myself go 
icy cold by the touch of these words and commands 
which link future and past together and misery to 
misery. I have already heard them resounding for 
ever. A world of thoughts growls confusedly within 



344 



LIGHT 



u 



fi. I 



Ir! i r . . ''^ 'T*'! ^'^^" "P"" '» That first 
cry which ( f t risked among men. f cast almos. 

ut aJmoHt as .i dumb man. Tho old 

•vcn turn his earthv. granitic head 

f' ir of applause go by. of fKjpular 



Mane. mini?hng with the crowd 

nots f f them Suddenly there is 

tnd '■ " one stands immovable. 

^ i>a his feet He raises his 



as ft visionar 
pea-sant t» . 1 1» 
And I i^f . 
expanse 

I go U, tc I'il 

I divide r fTi '! 
profound i,ileiu • 
L'p then-, r • n, 
forefingi • ,u 

heaven . ht t cv , » , on earth, they arc aUve 
Tht-y keep watcii in our hearts, ctcinaUy preserved 
frc,m obhv-on. Theirs i. the immortality\,f glorv 
and gratitude, fhey a.e not dead, and we should 
envy them uK.re than pity." 

nr^lVl*" ^}^^^^ *^*' audience, all of whom bow 
^Li J\ [J''"'.^'T^ ^^Vnght. stubbornly, with 
clenched teeth. And I rcrnembr, things and I sav 
to myself : " Have the dead died for n!ih.ng i 
the world is to stay as it is, then- -yes i " 

,h.rT^ "" u" "^'i "? **^"^ *^^''' ^^^^ks at first, and 
hen they obeyed the general movement ; and I 
felt on my shoulders all the heav y weight of the 
bowing multitude. ** 

Nfonsieur Joseph Bon^as is talking within a circle 
beeing him again. I also feel for one second the 
fascination he once had for me. He is wearing an 

hf/Zl ""'^''"" ""^ *^^ ^"^" ^'"^^d' ^"d its collar 
h^des the ravages in his neck. He is holding forth. 
VVTut says he ? He saj-s, " We must take the long 

nniJ!hiT? ^f^^ ^^^ '''"^ ^'^^ F°^ 'ny part, the 
only thing I admire in militarist Pn'cqia - it- --li 

tary organisation. After the war-for we must not 



THE CULT 



245 



limit our outlouk to the prt^ent conflict wc inu»t 
take U'«»on» from it, and |UHt let the Himple-mindrd 
humamtiirian* go on bleating about univcr-iiil 
ptace." 

He gow on to siiy that in his opinion the «»rator» 
did not siiOiciently insist on the nercssity for tymg 
the e<onomic hanUn of (.t-rtnany after the war. No 
annexiitions, perhaps : btit tariffs, which would be 
much better. And he shows in argument the ad- 
vantages and prosperity brought by carnage and 
destruction. 

He sec» mc. He adorns himself with a smile, and 
comes forward with proffered hand. I turn violently 
away. I have no ij?»e for the hand of this sort of 
outsider, this sort of traitor. 

They lie. That ludicrous person who talks of 
taking the long view while there are still in the world 
only a few superb martyrs who have dared to do it, 
he who is satisfied to contemplate, beyond the 
ptfHent misery of men. the misery of their children ; 
and the white-haired man who was extolling slavery 
just now, and trying to turn aside the demands of 
the people and switch them on to traditional 
massacre ; and he who from the height of his bunt- 
mg and trestles would have put a glamour of beauty 
and morality on battles ; and he tne attitudiniser, 
who brings to life the memory of the dead only to 
deny with word-trickery the terrible evidence of 
death, he who rcward> the martyrs witfi the soft 
soap of false promises— all these people toil hes, lies, 
lies. Tfjrough their words I can hear tlie mental 
reservation they are chewing over— ' Around us, 
the deluge ; and after us. the deluge." Or else they 
do not even he ; they see nothing, and they know 
not what they say. 

Ihey have opened the red barrier. Aoplause and 
congratulations cross each other. Some'notabihties 
come down from the rostrum, they look at me. they 



246 



LIGHT 



are obviously interested in the wounded soldier that 
I am, they advance towards me. Among them is 
the intellectual person who spoke first. He is 
wagging the white head and its cauliflower curls 
and looking all ways with eyes as empty as those 
of a kmg of cards. They told me his name, but I 
have forgotten it with contempt. I slip away from 
them. I am bitterly remorseful that for so long a 
portion of my life I believed what Bon^as said. I 
accuse myself of having formerly put my trust in 
speakers and writers who— however learned, dis- 
tinguished, famous— were only imbeciles or villains. 
I fly from these people, since I am not strong enough 
to answer and resist them— or to cry out upon them 
that the only memory it is important to preserve of 
the years we hav^ endured is that of their loathsome 
horror and lunacy. 



But the few words fallen from on high have sufficed 
to open my eyes, to show me that the Separation J 
dimly saw in the tempest of my nights in hospital 
was true. It comes down from vacancy and the 
clouds, it takes form and it takes root— it is there, 
it is there ; and the indictment comes to light, as 
precise and as tragic as that row of faces I 

Kings ? There they ?.re. There are many dif- 
ferent kmds of king, just as there are different 
gods. But there is one royalty everywhere, and that 
is the very form of ancient society, the great machine 
which IS stronger than men. And all the personages 
enthroned on that rostrum— those business men and 
bishops, those politicians and great merchants, those 
bulky office-holders or journalists, those old generals 
m sumptuous decorations, those writers in uniform 
—they are the custodians of the highest law and its 
executors. 
It is those people whose interests are common and 



THE CULT 



247 



are contrary to those of mankind ; and their in- 
terests are — above all and imperiously — ^Let nothing 
change ! It is those people who keep their eternal 
subjects in eternal order, who deceive and dazzle 
them, who take their brains away as they take their 
bodies, who flatter their servile instincts, who make 
shallow resplendent creeds for them, and explain 
huge happenings away with all the pretexts they 
like. It is because of them that the law of things 
does not rest on justice and the moral law. 

If some of them are unconscious of it, no matter. 
Neither does it matter that all of them do not always 
profit by the public's servitude, nor that some of 
them, sometimes, even happen to suffer for it. They 
are none the less, all of them, by their solid coalition, 
material and moral, the defenders of hes above and 
delusion below. These are the people who reign in 
the place of kings, or at the same time, here as 
everywhere. 

Formerly, I used to see a harmony of interests and 
ideals on all that festive sunlit hill. Now I see reality 
broken in two, as I did on my bed of pain. I see the 
two enemy races face to face — the victors and the 
vanquished. 

Monsieur Gozlan looks like a master of masters — 
an aged collector of fortune, whose speculations are 
famous, whose wealth increases unaided, who makes 
as much profit as he likes, and holds the district in 
the hollow of his hand. His vulgar movements flash 
with diamonds, and a bulky golden trinket hangs 
on his belly like a phallus. The generals beside him 
— those glorious potentates whose smiles are made 
of so many souls — and the administrators and the 
honourables only look like secondary actors. 

Fontan occupies considerable space on the ros- 
trum. He drowses there, with his two spherical 
hands planted in front of him. The volimiinous 
trencherman digests, and blows forth with his 



«i 



248 



LIGHT 



buttered mouth ; and what he has eaten purrs 
^•nJ.^ "Iwk' ^^'L RampaiUe the butcher. A. has 
mingled with the pubhc He is rich but dressed with 
bad taste. It is his habit to say. " I am a poor man 
of the people. I am ; look at my dirty clothes." A 
momen ago when the lady who was collecting for 

I^H frnnl'/K '■^' • ^'^«"" '"^^^"^y Confronted him 
Spc Jrof f • ^T- *? P"^'^^ attention, he fumbled 
nnPn/t. L!? ^V.''^ ^"^ ^'''Sged thrce-ha'pencc 

71 ni^^ ^^y: ^!'^?- ^'•^ ^^^^^^^ «ke him ofthis 
side of the barner. looking as though they were part 
of the crowd but only attached to it by their trade 
Kings do not now carry royalty everywhere on their 
sleeves; they obliterate themselves in the clothes 
of everybody. But all the hundred faces of royaky 
have the same signs, all of them, and are distinctly 

Sy ^''"'^ '''" ^"^'^^^ '' ^"p^^*y' ^-S 

w!!f.i^^'^ i*'^^"^ multitude fidgets about. By 
footpaths and streets they have come from the 
country and the town. I see. gazing errneUy stiff! 
set with attention, faces scorched by rude contact 
with the seasons or blanched by bad^a7mospheres 
the sharp and mummified face of the peasant • faces 
of young men grown bitter before they have come 
of age ; of women grown ugly before they have come 

their faded blouses and faded throats ; the clerks 

^f^ZT ^f *^"^°'""' '^^^^^ •• ^"d the little people 
with whom times are so difficult, whom their So! 

ders'' anThr ' "" *^"* ^^^™^ ^^ ^^^^^ -nd^hoil- 

naked Behold r.^ •"'"''' l"" ^'""'"'y ^^^^^^^ "P ^r 
ShnTA fv. i *^^'' l""^bers and immense strength 
Behold therefore, authority and justice. For iustice 
and authority are not hoUow formulas-.?hey are 
We. the most o hfe there can be ; they are mankind 
they are mankind in all places and all time^ These 
words, justice and authority, do not echo in an 



THE CULT 



■249 



abstract sphere. They are rooted in the human 
being. They overflow and palpitate. When I de- 
mand justice, I am not groping in a dream, I am 
crying from the depths of all unhappy hearts. 

Such are they, that mountain of people heaped on 
the ground like metal for the roads, overwhelmed 
by unhappiness, debased by charity and asking for 
it, bound to the rich by urgent necessity, entangled 
in the wheels of a single machine, the machine of 
frightful repetition. And in that multitude I also 
place nearly all j'^oung people, whoever they are, 
because of their docility and their general ignorance. 
These lowly people form an imposing mass as far 
as one may see, yet each of them is hardly any- 
thing, because he is isolated. It is almost a 
mistake to count them ; what you see when you 
look at the multitude is an immensity made of 
nothing. 

And the people ot to-day — overloaded with gloom 
and intoxicated with prejudice — see blood, because 
of the red hangings of rostrums ; they are fascinated 
by tLe sparkle of diamonds, of necklaces, of decora- 
tions, of the eyeglasses of the intellectuals, by the 
barren brilliance which drops from these festivities 
like ahns. They have eyes but they see not, ears, 
but they hear not, arms which they do not use ; and 
they are thoughtless because they let others do their 
thinking ! Sometimes they say, or stammeringly 
whisper, " Every man for himself ! " Shipwrecked, 
they would fain cling to that cry, and cannot see 
that it plunges them still deeper, and drowns them. 
And the other half of this same multitude is yonder, 
looking for Man and looked for by Man, in the big 
black furrows where blood is scattered and the 
human race is disappearing. And still farther away, 
in another part of the world, the same throne-like 
platforms are crushing into the same immense areas 
of men ; and the same gilded servants of royalty 



> 



V-U 



350 



Lie i 



are scattering broadcast ,rds which are only a 
translation of those which . ..1 on us here 

Some women in mourning are hardly stains on 
this gloomy umty. They wander and turn round in 
the open spaces, and are the same as they were in 
ancient times. They are not of any age or any cen 
tury, these murdered souls covered with black- 
veils ; they are you and I. 

My vision was true from top to bottom. The evil 
dream has become a concrete tragi-comedy which 
IS worse. It is inextricable. hea5y. crushing .1 
flounder from detail to detail of it ; it drag! me 

^irtJ'^?^^. ""^^^ ''■ ^^^"'^' therefore, wh^t 
vail l)e--exploitation to the last breath, to the limit 
of weanng out. to death perfected 

I have overtaken Marie. By her side I feel more 
defenceless than when I am alone. While we watch 
the festival the shining hurly-burly, murmuring and 
eulogistic, the Baroness espies me. smiles and signs 
to me to go to her. So I go, and in the presence of 
all she pays me some compliment or other on mv 
service at the front. She is dressed in black velvet 
and wears her white hair like a diadem. Twentv- 
hve years of vassalage bow mo before her and fill 
me with silence And I salute the Gozlans also, in 
a way which I feel is humble in spite of myself, for 
they are all-powerful over me. ana they make Marie 
an allowance without which we could not live 
properly. I am no more than a man 

h«f,-f ? '^'''^Z' "^^"".^ ^y^ ^^^^ damaged in Artois, 

Sf K^. ^",?- ^'°P'"u^- ^^" ^^^°"««^ has found a 
httle ]ob for him in the castle kitchens. 

" Isn't she good to the wounded soldiers " thev 
^""tf^ypS around me ; " she's a real benefactor » •' 
1 his time I say aloud : 

"Jhere is the real benefactor "-and I point to 
the,rum which the young man has become whom we 
used to know, to the miserable darkened biped whose 



THE CULT 



asi 



eyelids flutter in the daylight, who leans weakly 
against a tree, in face of the festive crowd, as if it 
were an execution post. 

" Yes — after all— yes, yes," the people about me 
murmur timidly, they also blinking as though tardily 
enlightened by the spectacle of the poor benefactor. 

But they are not heard— they hardly even hear 
themselves — in the flood of uproar from a brass 
band. A triumphal marcl» goes by with the 
strong and sensual driving-force of its " Forward ! 
You shall not know ! " The audience fill themselves 
with brazen music, and overflow in cheers. 

The ceremony is drawing to a close. They who 
were seated on the rostrum get up, Fontan, be- 
wildered with sleepiness, struggles to put on a tall 
hat which is too narrow, and while he screws it 
round he grimaces. Then he smiles with his boneless 
mouth. All congratulate themselves through each 
other ; they shake their own hands ; they cling to 
themselves. After their fellowship in patriotism, 
they are going back to their calculations and grati- 
fications, glorified in their egotism, sanctified, beau- 
tified ; more than ever will they blend their own 
with the common cause, and say, " We are the 
people ! " 

Brisbille, seeing one of the orators passing near 
him, throws him a ferocious look, and shouts, " Land- 
shark ! " and other virulent insults. 

But because of the brafs instruments let loose, 
people only see him open his mouth, and Monsieur 
Mielvaque dances with delight. Monsieur Miel- 
vaque, declared unfit for service, has been called 
up again. More miserable than ever, worn and 
pared and patched up, more and more parched and 
shrivelled by hopelessly long labour — he blots out 
the shiny places on his overcoat with his pen — Miel- 
vaque points to Brisbille gagged by the band, he 
writhes with laughter, and shouts in my ear : 






h' 









ill 



252 



LIGHT 



j 



" He might be trying to sing ! " 

Madame Marcassin's paralysed face appears. The 
disappearance of which she unceasingly thinks has 
lacerated her features. She also applauds the noise, 
and across her face — which has gone out like a lamp 
— there shot a flash. Can it be only because, to-day, 
attention is fixed on her ? 

A mother, mutilated in her slain son, is giving her 
mite to the offertory for the Lest-we-Forget League, 
She is bringing her poverty's humble assistance to 
those who say : " Remember evil ; not that it may 
be avoided, but that it may be revived, by exciting 
at random all causes of hatred. Memory must be 
made an infectious disease." Bleeding and bloody, 
inflamed by the stupid selfishness of vengeance, she 
holds out her hand to the collector, and drags 
behind her a little girl who nevertheless will one day 
perhaps be a mother. 

Lower down, an apprentice is devouring an 
officer's uniform with his gaze. He stands there 
hypnotised ; and the sky-blue and beautiful crimson 
come off on his eyes. At that moment I saw clearly 
that beauty in uniforms is still more wicked than 
stupid. 

Ah ! That frightful prophecy locked up within 
me is hammering my skull : 

" I have confidence in the abyss of the people." 



Wounded by everything I see, I sink down in a 
comer. Truth is simple. But the world is no longer 
simple. There are so many things ! How will truth 
ever change its defeat into victory — how is it ever 
going to heal all those who do not know ! I grieve 
that I am weak and ineffective, that I am only L 
On earth, alas, truth is dumb, and the heart is only 
a*stifled cry ! 



THE CULT 



253 



I look for support, for some one who does not 
leave me alone. I am too much alone, and I look 
eagerly. But there is only Brisbille ! 

There is only that tipsy automaton, that parody 
of a man. 

There he is. Close by he is more drunk than in 
the distance I Drunkenness bedaubs him ; his eyes 
are filled with wine, his cheeks are like baked clay, 
his nose like a baked apple, he is almost blinded by 
viscous tufts. In the middle of that open space he 
seems caught in a whirlpool. It happens that he is 
in front of me for a moment, and he hurls at my head 
some furious phrases in which I recognise, now and 
again, the truths in which I believe ! Then, with 
antics at once desperate and too heavy for him, he 
tries to perform some kind of pantomime which 
represents the wealthy class, round-paunched as a 
bag of gold, sitting on the proletariat till their noses 
ar2 crushed in the gutter, and proclaiming, with 
their eyes up to heaven and their hands on their 
hearts, " And above all, no more class wars ! " 
There is something alarming in the awkwardness 
of the grimacing object begotten by that obstructed 
brain. It seems as if real suffering is giving voice 
through him with a beast's cry. 

When he has spoken, he collapses on to a stone. 
With his fist, whose leather is covered with red hair 
like a cow's, he hides the squalid face that looks as 
if it had been spat upon. 

" Folks aren't wicked," he says ; " but they're 
stupid, stupid, stupid." 

And Brisbille cries. 

Just then. Father Piot advances into the space, 
with his silver aureole, his benevolent smile, and 
the vague and continuous lisping which trickles from 
his lips. He stops in the middle of us, gives a nod to 
each one, and continuing his ingenuous reflections 
aloud, he murmurs : 



,.H 



254 



LIGHT 



" Hem, hem. The most important thing of all, 
in war, is the return to religious ideas. Hem." 

The monstrous calm of the saying makes me start, 
and communicates final agitation to Brisbiile. 
Throwing himself upright, the blacksmith flourishes 
his trembling fist, tries to hold it under the old 
priest's chin, and bawls : 

" You ? Shall I tell you how you make me fed. 
eh? Why " 

Some young men seiie him, hustle him, and throw 
him down. His head strikes the ground, and he is 
at last immobile. Father Piot raises his arms to 
Heaven, and kneels over the vanquished madman. 
There are tears in the old man's eyes. 

When we have made a few steps away, I cannot 
help saying to Marie, with a sort of courage, that 
Brisbiile is not wrong in all that he says. Marie is 
shocked, and says, " Oh ! " 

" There was a time," she says reproachfully, 
" when you set about him ! " 

I should like Marie to understand what I am 
wanting to say. I explain to her that although he 
may be a drunkard and a brute, he is right in what 
he thinks. He stammers and hiccoughs the truth, 
but it was not he who made it, and it is whole and 
pure. He is a degraded prophet, but the relics of 
his dreams have remained accurate. And that 
saintly old man, who is devotion incarnate, who 
would not harm a fly, he is only a lowly servant of 
lies ; but he brings his little link to the chain, and 
he smiles on the side of the executioners. 

" One shouldn't ever confuse ideas with men. 
It's a mistake that does a lot of harm." 

Marie lowers her head and says nothing ; tht 
she murmui : 

" Yes, that's true." 

I pick up the Uttle sentence she has given me. It 
is the first time that approval of that sort has brought 



THE CULT 



255 



her near to me. She has inteUigencc within her ; 
she understands certain things. Women, in spite of 
thoughtless impulses, are quicker in understanding 
than men. Then uhe says to me : 

" Since you came back, you've been worrvina vour 
head too much." "^ *^ 

CrUlon was on our heels. He stands in front of 
me, and looks displeased. 

" I was Ustening to you just now," he says ; " I 
must tell you that since you come back, you have 
the air of a foreigner— a Belgian or an American. 
You say intolantable things. We thought at first 
your mmd had got a bit unhinged. Unfortunately, 
it's not that. Is it because you've turned sour? 
Anyway, I lin't know what advantage you're after, 
but I must cautionise you that you're anielating 
everybody. We must put ourselves in these people's 
places. Apropos of this, and apropos of that, you 
make proposals of a tendicious character which 
doesn't escape them. You aren't like the rest any 
more. If you go on, you'll look as silly as a giant, 
and if you're going to frighten folks, look out for 
yourself ! " 

He plants himself before me in massive convic- 
tion. The full daylight reveals more crudely the 
ageing of his features. His skin is stretched on the 
bones of his head, and the muscles of his neck 
and shoulders work badly; they stick, like old 
drawers. 

' And then, after all, what do you want ? We've 
got to carry the war on. eh ? We must give the 
Boches hell, to sum up." 

With an effort, wearied beforehand, I ask : 

" And afterwards ? " 

" What— afterwards ? Afterwards there'll be 
wars, naturally, but civilised wars. Afterwards ? 
Why. future posterity ! Own up that you'd like to 
save the world, eh, what ? When you launch out 



as6 



LIGHT 



Into thwe great machinAlioni. you fty enonnitic* 
compulsively. The future ? Ha, ha ! ' 

I tum away from him. Of what u»e to try to tcU 
him that the past is dead, that the present is passing, 
that the future alone is positive I 

Through Crillon's paternal admonishment, I feel 
the threat of the others. It is not yet hostility 
around me ; but it is already a rupture. With this 
truth that clings to me alone amid the world and 
its phantoms, am I not indeed rusliing into a sort 
of tragedy impossible to maintain ? They who sur- 
round mc, filled to the Ups. fiUed to the eyes, with 
the gross acceptance which turns men into beasts, 
they look at me mistrustfuUy, ready to be let 
loose against me. Little more was lacking before I 
shotjld be as much a reprobate as Brisbille, who. in 
this very place, before the war, stood up alone before 
the multitude, and tried to tell them to their faces 
that they were going into the gulf. 



I move away with Marie. We go down into the 
valley, and then cUmb Chestnut Hill. I Uke these 
places where I used so often to come in the day's 
when everything around me was a hell which I did 
not see. Now that I am a ghost returning from the 
beyond, this hill still draws me through the streets 
and lanes. I remember it and it remembers me. 
There is something which we share, which I took 
away with me yonder, everywhere. Uke a secret. I 
hear that despoiled soldier who said : " Where 1 
come from, there are fields and paths and the sea , 
nowhere else in the world is there that " ; and amid 
my unhappy memories that extraordinary sayuig 
shines like news of the truth. 

We sit down on the bank which borders the lane. 
We can see the town, the station, and carts on the 
road ; and yonder, three villages make harmony. 



THE CULT 



257 



tometimet more carefully limned by bunts of sun- 
fthine. The horizont entwine u» in a munnur. The 
crossing where we are i% the >pot where four roads 
make i4 movement of reunion. 

But m) !ipirit i^i no longer what it was. Vaguely 
I seek, every'where. I must see things witfi all their 
con^H]uences, and right to their source. Against all 
the chains of facts, I must have long arguments to 
bring ; and the world's chaos requires an interpre- 
tation equally terrible. 



it 



There is a slight noise — a frail passer-by, and a 
speck which jumps round li^r feet. Marie looks, and 
says mechamcally, like a devout woman making the 
sign of the cross, " Poor little angel ! " 

It is Uttic Antoinette and her dog. She gropes for 
the edge of the road with a stick, 'or she has become 
quite blind. They never l(X)ked after her. They 
were going to do it. unendingly, but they never did 
it. They always said, " Poor Uttle angel," and that 
was all. 

She is so miserably clad that you lower your eyes 
before her, although she cannot see. She wanders 
and seeks, incapable of understanding the wrong 
they have done, they have allowed to be done, the 
wrong which no one remembers. Alas, to the prating 
indifference and the indolent negligence of men, 
there is only this poor little blind witness. 

She stops in front of us and puts out her hand 
awkwardly. She is begging ! No one troubles him- 
self about her now. She is talking to her dog. He 
was bom in the castle kennels — Marie told me about 
him. He was the last of a litter, ill-shaped, with a 
head too big, and bad eyes ; and the Baroness said, 
as they were going to drown him, and because she 
is always thinking of good things, " Give him to the 
little bUnd girl." The child is training him to guide 



as* 



LIGHT 



hw ; but he it young, he wants to pUy when othrr 
dogs go by, he heart her with UttleM ear. It it diftt- 
cult for him to begin «eriout work ; and he phick- 
the ttring from her hands, She callt to him ; and 
waits. 

Then, during a long time, a good many patters- 
by appear and vanith. We do not loolt at all of 
them. 

But lo, turning the comer like tomt one of im- 
portance, here comes a tleek and tawny mastiff, 
with the tilvery tinkle of a trinket which gleamt on 
hit neck. 

He it proclaiming and preceding hit young mis- 
tress, Mademoiselle Evelyn de Monthyon, who is 
riding her pony. The little girl caracoles sedately, 
clad in a riding-habit, and armed with a crop. 

She has been an orphan for a long time. She is 
the mistress of the castle. She is twelve years old. 
and has millions. A mounted groom in full livcr>' 
follows her, Icwking like a stage-player or a cham- 
berlain ; and then, with measured steps, an elderly 
governess, dressed in black silk, and manifcbtly 
thinking of some Court. 

Mademoiselle Evelyn de Monthyon and her pretty 
name set us thinking of Antoinette, who hardly has 
a name ; and it seems to us that these two are the 
only ones who have passed before our eyes. The 
difference in the earthly fates of these two creatures 
who have both the same fragile innocence, the same 
pure and complete incapacity of cliiidhood, plunges 
us into a tragedy of thought. The misery and tlie 
might which have fallen on those little immature 
heads are equally undeserved. It is a disgrace for 
men to see a poor child ; it is also a disgrace for men 
to see a rich child. 

I feel malicious towards the little sumptuous 
princess who has just appeared, already haughty m 
spite of her littleness ; and I am stirred with pity 



THF. CULT 



^59 



tor the frail victim whom life is nbUterating witlt all 
it! might : and Marie. I can nee, gentle Mari^ haa 
the tame thoughts. Who wmiUI not (eel th«tn in 
face of this twin picture of childhoml which a paw- 
ing chance has brought ut. of titts one picture torn 
in two ? 

But I resist this emotion ; the understanding of 
things must be based not on sentiment but on reatkni. 
There must be justice, not charity Kindness is 
solitary. Compauion becomes one wuh luni wl^im 
we pitv. It allows us to fathom him. to undcrstaiid 
him alone among the rest ; but it bin r^ and befogs 
the laws of the whole. I must «i ot; with a clear 
idea, like the beam of a ^l.thotj-ft through the 
deformities and temptations of ti ^hi 

As I have seen equality, 1 .im sciint, <n:quality 
Equality in truth, inequality in fa^t \V»; nh^ervc 
in man's beginning the beginning of hi- (lun. I he 
root of the error is in inheritance. 

Injustice, artificial and groundless auiliority, 
royalty without reason, the fantastic freaks of for- 
tune which suddenly put crowns on heads I It it 
there, as far as the monstrous authority of the dead, 
that we must draw a straight line and clean the 
darkness away. 

The transfer of the riches and authority of the 
dead, of whatever kind, to their descendants, is not 
in accord with reason and the moral law. The laws 
of might and of possessions are for the living alone. 
Every man must occupy in the common lot a place 
which he owes to liis work and not to luck. 

It is tradition I But that is no reason, on the other 
hand. Tradition, which is the artificial welding of 
the present with the mass of the past, contrives a 
chain between them where there is none. It is 
from tradition that all human unliappiness comes. 
It piles de facto truths on to the true truth ; it over- 
rides justice ; it takes all freedom away from reason. 



y. 

'I 



26o 



LIGHT 



and replaces it with legendary things, forbidding 
reason to look for what may be inside them. 

It is in the one domain of science and its applica- 
tion, and sometimes in the technique of the arts, 
that experience legitimately takes the power of law[ 
and that acquired productions have a right to accu- 
mulate. But to pass from this treasuring of truth 
to the dynastic privilege of ideas or powers or wealth 
—those talismans— that is to make a senseless 
assimilation which kills equality in the bud, and 
prevents human order from having a basis. In- 
heritance, which is the concrete and palpable form 
of tradition, defends itself by the tradition of 
origins and of beliefs— abuses defended by abuses, 
to infinity— and it is by reason of that integral suc- 
cession that here on earth we see a few men holding 
the multitude of men in their hands. 

I say aU this to Marie. She appears to be more 
struck by the vehemence of my tone than by the 
obviousness of what I say. She replies feebly, 
" Yes, indeed," and nods her head ; but she asks 
me : 

" But the moral law that we talk about, isn't it 
tradition ? " 

" No. It is the automatic law of the common 
good. Every time that finds itself at stake, it re- 
creates itself logically. It is lucid ; it shows itself 
every time right to its fountain-head. Its source is 
reason itself, and equality, which is the same thing 
as reason. This thing is good and that is evil, 
because it is good and because it is evil, and not 
because of what has been said or written. It is the 
opposite of traditional bidding. There is no tradi- 
tion of the good. Wealth and power must be earned, 
not taken ready-made ; the idea of what is just or 
right must be reconstructed on every occasion and 
not be taken ready-made." 
Marie listens to me. She ponders, and then says : 



THE CULT 



26x 



" We shouldn't work if we hadn't to leave what 
we have to our relations." 
But immediately she answers herself, "No," 
She produces some illustrations, just among our 
.own surroundings— So-and-so, and So-and-so The 
bait of gain or influence, or even the excitement of 
work and production suffice for people to do them- 
selves harm. And then, too, this great change would 
paralyse the workers less than the old way paralyses 
the prematurely enriched who pick up their fortunes 
on the ground— such as he, for instance, whom we 
used to see go by, who was drained and dead 
at twenty, and so many other ignoble and irre- 
futable examples; and the comedies around be- 
quests and heirs and heiresses, and their great 
gamble with affection and love— all these base- 
nesses, in which custom too old has made hearts 
go mouldy. 

She is a httle excited, as if the truth, in the con- 
fusion of these critical times, were beautiful to see— 
and even pleasant to detain with words. 

All the same she interrupts herself, and says : 

" They'll always find some way of deceiving " 

At last she says : 

" Yes, it would be just, perhaps ; but it won't 
come. 



The vaUey has suddenly filled with tumult. On 
the road which goes along the opposite slope, a 
regiment is passing on its way to the brjracks. a 
new regiment, with its colours. The flag goes on its 
way m the middle of a long-drawn huriy-burly, in 
vague shouting, in plumes of dust, and a sparkling 
mist of battle. ^ 

We have both mechanically risen on the edge of 
tne road. At the moment when the flag passes 
before us, the habit of saluting it trembles in my 



.! 



a63 



LIGHT 



arm. But, just as when a while ago the bishop's 
lifted hand did not humble me, I stay m«ti«nleM 
and I do not salute. 

No, I do not bow in presence of the flag It 
frightens me, I hate it, and I accuse it. No, there is 
no beauty in it ; it is not the emblem of this corner 
of my native land, whose fair picture it disturbs 
with its savage stripes. It is the screaming sign- 
board of the glory of blows, of militarism and war. 
It unfurls over the living surges of humanity a sign 
of supremacy and command ; it is a weapon. It is 
not the love of our countries, it is their sharp-edged 
difference, proud and aggressive, which we placard 
in the face of the» others. It is the gaudy eagle which 
conquerors and their devotees see flying in their 
dreams from steeple to steeple in foreign lands. The 
sacred defence of the homeland — well and good. 
But if there was no offensive war, there would be 
no defensive war. Defensive war has the same in- 
famous cause as the offensive war which provoked 
it ; why do we not confess it ? We persist, through 
blindness or duplicity, in cutting the question 
in two, as if it were too great. All fallacies 
are possible when one speculates on morsels of 
truth. But] Earth only bears one single sort of 
inhabitant. 

It is not enough to put something on the end of a 
stick in public places, to shake it on the tops of 
buildings and in the faces of public assemblies, and 
say, "It is decided that this is the loftiest of all 
symbols ; it is decided that he who will not bend the 
Imee before it shall be accursed." It is the duty of 
human intelligence to examine if that symbolism is 
not fetish worship. 

As for me, I remember it was said that logic has 
terrible chains and that all hold together— the 
throne, the altar, the sword, and the flag. And I 
have read, in the unchaining and the enchaining of 






THE CULT 



^3 



war, that these are the instruments of the cult of 
human sacrifices. 



Marie has sat down again, and I stroll away a 
little, musing, 

I recall the shoulette of Adjutant Marcassin, and 
his whom I quoted a moment ago — the sincere hero, 
barren and dogmatic, with his furious faith. I seem 
to be asking him : "Do you believe in beauty, in 
progress ? " He does not know ; so he repUes, 
" No ! I believe only in the glory of the French 
name ! "— " Do you believe in respect for Ufe, in the 
dignity of labour, in the hoUness of happiness ? " — 
" No 1 " — " Do you believe in truth, in justice ? " — 
" No. I only believe in the glory of the French 
name." 

The idea of motherland — ^I have never dared to 
look it in the face. I stand still in my walk and in 
my meditation. What, that also ? But my reason 
is as honest as my heart, and keeps me going forward. 
Yes, that also. 

In the friendly soUtude of these familiar spots on 
the top of this hill, at the cross-roads where the lane 
has led me like an unending companion, not far from 
the place where the gentle slope waits for you to 
entice you, I quake to hear myself think and blas- 
pheme. What, that notion of Motherland also, 
which has so often thrilled me with gladness and 
enthusiasm, as but latel5^ that of God did ? 

But it is in motherland's name, as once in the 
name of God only, that humanity robs itself, and 
tries to choke itself with its own hands, as it will 
soon succeed in doing. It is because of motherland 
that the big countries, more rich in blood, have 
overcome the little ones. It is because of mother- 
land that the overlord of German nationahsm at- 
tacked France and let civil war loose among the 



264 



LIGHT 



people of the world. The question must be placed 
there where it is, that is to say, everywhere at once. 
One must see face to face, in one glance, all those 
immense distinct unities which each shout "II" 

The idea of motherland is not a false idea, but it 
is a little idea, and one which must remain little. 

There is only one common good. There is only 
one moral duty, only one truth, and every man is 
the shining recipient and guardian of it. The present 
understanding of the idea of motherland divides all 
these great ideas, cuts them into pieces, specialises 
them within impenetrable circles. We meet as 
many national truths as we do nations, and as many 
national duties,, and as many national interests and 
rights— and they are antagonistic to each other. 
Each country is separated from the next by such 
walls— moral frontiers, material frontiers, commer- 
cial frontiers— that you are imprisoned when you 
find yourself on either side of them. We hear talk 
of sanctified selfishness, of the adorable expansion 
of one race across the others, of noble hatreds and 
glonous conquests, and we see these ideals trying 
to take shape on all hands. This capricious multi- 
plication of what ought to remain one leads the 
whole of civilisation into a malignant and thorough 
absurdity. The words " justice " and " right " are 
too great in stature to be shut up in proper nouns, 
any more than Providence can be, which every 
royalty would fain take to itself. 

National aspirations— confessed or unconfessable 
—are contradictory among themselves. All popu- 
lations which are narrowly confined and elbow each 
other in the world are full of dreams vaster than 
each of them. The nations' territorial ambitions 
overlap each other on the map of the universe; 
economic and financial ambitions cancel each other 
mathematically. Then in the mass they are un- 
realisable. 



THE CULT 



a65 



And since there is no sort of higher control over 
this scuffle of truths wliich are not admissible, each 
nation realises its own by all possible means, by ail 
the fidelity and anger and brute force she can get 
out of herseli. By the help of this state of world-wide 
anarchy, the hazy and slight distinction between 
patriotism, imperialism, and militarism is violated, 
trampled, and broken through all along the line, and 
it cannot be otherv/ise. The Uving universe cannot 
help becoming an organisation of armed rivalry. 
And there cannot fail to result from it an everlast- 
ing succession of evils, without any hope of abiding 
spoils — for there is no instance of conquerors who 
have long enjoyed immunity, and history reveals 
a sort of balance of injustices and of the fatal alter- 
nation of predominance. In all quarters the hope of 
victory brings in the hope of war. It is conflict 
clinging to conflict, and the recurrent murdering of 
murders. 

The kings ! We always find the kings again when 
we examine popular unhappiness right to the end ! 
This h^Tpertrophy of the national unities is the un- 
doing of their leaders. It is the masters, the ruling 
aristocracies — emblazoned or capitaUot — who have 
created and maintained fur centuries all the pom- 
pous and sacred raiment, sanctimonious or fanatical, 
in which national separation is clothed, along with 
the fable of national interests — those enemies of the 
multitudes. The primeval centralisation of indi- 
viduals isolated in the inhabited spaces was in agree- 
ment with the moral law ; it was the precise em- 
bodiment of progress ; it was of benefit to all. But 
the decreed division, peremptory and stem, which 
was interposed in that centralisation — that is the 
doom of man, although it is necessary to the classes 
who command. These boundaries, these clean cuts, 
permit the stakes of commercial conflict and of war ; 
that is to say, the chance of big feats of glory and of 



266 



LIGHT 




huge speculations. TfuU is the vital principle of 
Empire. If all interests suddenly became again the 
individual interests of men, and the moral law re- 
sumed its full and spacious action on the basis of 
equality, if human solidarity were world-wide and 
complete, it would no longer lend itself to certain 
sudden and partial increases which are never to the 
general advantage, but may be to the advantage of 
a few fleeting profiteers. That is why the conscious 
forces which have hitherto directed the old world's 
destiny will always use all possible means to break 
up human harmony into fragments. Authority 
holds fast to all its national bases. 

The insensate System of national blocks in sinister 
dispersal, devouring or devoured, has its apostles 
and advocates. But the theorists, the men of 
spurious knowledge, will in vain have heaped up 
their farrago of quibbles and arguments, their falla- 
cies drawn from so-called precedents or from so- 
called economic and ethnic necessity ; for the 
simple, brutal, and magnificent cry of life renders 
useless the efiorts they make to galvanise and erect 
doctrines which cannot stand alone. The disap- 
proval which attaches in our time to the word 
" internationalism " provas together the silliness 
and meanness of public opinion. Humanity is the 
living name of tnith. Men are like each other as 
trees ! They who rule will rule by force and deceit ; 
but by reason, never. 

The national group is a collectivity within the 
bosom of the chief one. It is one group like any 
other ; it is like him who knots himself to himself 
under the wing of a roof, or under the wider wing 
of the sky that dyes a landscape blue. It is not the 
definite, absolute, mystical group into which they 
would fain transform it with sorcery of words and 
ideas, which they have armoured with oppressive 
rules. Everywhere, man's poor hope of salvation 



THE CULT 



a67 



on earth is merely to attain, at the end of his life, 
this : To live one's life freely, where one wants to 
live it ; to love, to last, to produce, in the chosen 
environment — just as the people of the ancient 
Provinces have lost, along with their separate 
leaders, their separate traditions of covetousness and 
reciprocal robbery. 

If, from the idea of motherland, you take away 
covetousness, hatred, envy, and vainglory ; if you 
take away from it the desire for predominance by 
violence, what is there left of it ? 

It is not an individual unity of laws ; for just 
laws have no colours. It is not a solidarity of in- 
terests, for there are no material national interests 
— or they are not honest. It is not a unity of race ; 
for the map of the countries is not the map of the 
races. What is there left ? 

There is left a restricted communion, deep and 
delightful ; the affectionate and affecting attraction 
in the charm of a language — there is hardly more 
in the universe besides its languages which are 
foreigners — there is left a personal and delicate 
preference for certain forms of landscape, of monu- 
ments, of talent. And even this radiance has its 
limits. The cult of the masterpieces of art and 
thought is the only impulse of the soul which by 
general consent has always soared above patriotic 
littlenesses. 

" But," the official voices trumpet, " there is 
another magic formula— the great common Past of 
every nation." 

Yes, there is the Past. That long Golgotha of 
oppressed peoples ; the Law of the Strong, changing 
life's humble festival into useless and recurring 
hecatombs ; the chronology of that crushing of 
lives and ideas which always tortured or executed 
the innovators ; that Past in which sovereigns 
settled their personal affairs of alliances, ruptures, 






268 



LIGHT 



D) n 



dowries, and inheritance with the territory and bluod 
which they owned ; in which each and everv country 
was so squandered— it is common to all. that Past 
in which the small attainments of moral progrc&s, 
of well-being and unity (so far as they were not 
solely semblances) only crystallised with despairing 
tardiness, with periods of doleful stagnation and 
frightful alternation along the channels of barbarism 
and force ; tiiat Past of sombre shame, that Past of 
error and disease which every old nation has sur- 
vived, which we should learn by heart that we may 
hate it — yes, that Past is common to all, like misery, 
shame, and pain. , Blessed are the new nations, for 
they have no remorse ! 

And the blessings of the Past — the splendour of 
the French Revolution, the huge gifts of the naviga- 
tois who brought new worlds to the old one, and the 
miraculous exception of scientific discoveries, which 
by a second miracle were not smothered in their 
youth — are they not also common to all, like the 
undying beauty of the ruins of the Parthenon, 
Shakespeare's hghtning and Beethoven's raptures, 
and like love, and like joy ? 

The universal problem into which modem life, as 
well as past life, rushes and embroils and rends itself, 
can only be dispersed by a universal means whicf 
reduces each nation to what it is in truth ; which 
strips from them all the ideal of supremacy stolen 
by each of them from the great human ideal ; a 
means which, raising the human ideal definitely 
beyond the reach of all those immoderate emotions 
which shout together " Mine is the only point of 
view," gives it at last its di'/ine unity. Let us keep 
the love of the motherland in our hearts, but let us 
dethrone the conception of Motherland. 

I will say what there is to say : I place the Re- 
public before France. France is ourselves. The 
Republic is ourselves and the others. The general 




THE CULT 



26q 



welfare must be put much higher than national 
welfare, because it is much higher. But if it is ven- 
turesome to assert, as they have so much and so 
indiscriminately done, that such national interest it 
in accord with the general interest, then the converse 
is obvious ; and that is illuminating, momentous, 
and decisive— the good of all includes the good of 
each ; France can be prosperous even if the world 
is not, but the world cannot be prosperous and 
France not. The moving argument re-establishes, 
with positive and crowding certainties which touch 
us softly on all hides, that distracting stake which 
Pascal tried to place like a lever in the void—" On 
one side, I lose ; on the other I have all to gain." 



Amid the beauty of these dear spots on Chestnut 
Hill, in the heart of these four crossing ways, I have 
seen new things ; not that any new things have 
happened, but because I have opened my eyes. 

I am rewarded, I the lowest, for being the only 
one of all to follow up error to the end, right into 
its holy places ; for I am at last disentangling all 
the simplicity and truth of the great horizons. The 
revelation still seems to me so terrible that the 
silence of men, heaped under the roofs down there 
at my feet, seizes and threatens me. And if I am 
but timidly formulating it within myself, that is 
because each of us has lived in reality more than his 
life, and because my training has filled me, like the 
rest, with centuries of shadow, of humiliation, and 
captivity. 

It is estaWishing itself cautiously ; but it is the 
truth, and there arc moments when logic seizes you 
in its godlike whirlwind. In this disordered world 
where the weakness of a few oppresses the strength 
of all ; since ever the religion of the God of Battles 
and of Resignation has not sufficed by itself to con- 



'ii 

Hi 



•70 



LIGHT 



Mcrate Incauality, Tradition reigns, the fotpel o\ 
the blind aaoration o( what was and what is-^tod 
without a head. Man's destiny is eternally blockaded 
by two forms of tradition ; in time, by hereditary 
succession ; in space, by frontiers, and thus it it 
crushed and annihilated in detail. It is the truth, I 
am certain of it, for I am touching it. 

But I do not know what will become of us. All 
the blood poured out, all the words poured out, to 
impose a sham ideal on our bodies and sotils. will 
they suffice for a long time yet to separate and 
isolate humanity in absurdity made real ? Histor>- 
is a bible of errors. I have not only seen blowings 
falling from on high on all wliich sumwrted evil, and 
curses on all which could heal it ; I have seen, here 
below, the keepers of the moral law hunted and 
derided, from Uttle Termite, lost like a rat in unfold- 
ing battle, back to Jesus Christ. 

We go away. For the first time since I came back. 
I no longer lean on Marie. It is she who leans on me. 



CHAPTER XXI 



NO 



The opening of our War Museum, which was the 
conspicuous ?vent of the following days, filled Crillon 
with delight 

It was a wooden building, gay with flags, wliich 
the municipality had erected ; and Room i was 
occupied by an exhibition of paintings and drawings 
by amateurs in high society, all war-subjects. Many 
of them were sent down from Paris. 

Crillon, officially got up in his Sunday clothes, 
has bought the catalogue (which is sold for the benefit 



NOf 



271 



of th« wounded), and he It struck with wonder by 
the lift of exhibitors. He talks of titles, of coats-of- 
arms, of crowns , he seeks enlightenment in matters 
of aristocratic hier »rchy. Once, as he stands before 
the row of frames, he asks : 

"I say, nr>w ; which has got most talent, in 
France — a princess or a duchess ? " 

He is qtute affected by these things ; and with 
his eyes fixed on the lower edges of the pictures, he 
deciphers tlie signatures. 

In the room which follows ttus shining exhibition 
of autographs, there is a crush. 

On trestles dispowd round the walls, trophies are 
arranged — peaked helmets, knapsacks covered with 
tawny hair, niins of shells. 

The complete umform of a German infantryman 
has been built up mth items from different sources, 
^ome of them stained 

In this room there vas a group of convalescents 
from the ovei low hospital of Viviers. These soldiers 
looked, and lardly spoke. Several shrugged their 
shoulders. But one of them growled in front of the 
German phantom, " Ah, the swine ! " 

With a view to propaganda, they have framed a 
letter from u woman found in a slain enemy's pocket. 
A translation is posted up as well ; and they have 
underlined the passage in which the woman says, 
" When is this cursed war going to end ? " and in 
which she laments the increasing cost of little 
Johann's keep. At the foot of the page the woman 
has depicted in a sentimental diagram the increasing 
love that she feels for her man. 

How simple and obvious the evidence is ! No 
reasonable person can dispute that the being whose 
private life is here thrown to the winds and who 
poured out his sweat and his blood in one of these 
rags was not responsible for having held a rifie, for 
having aimed it. In the presence of these ruins. I 



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L U, II T 



see Willi monotonous and implacable obstinacy thai 
the attacking attitude is as innocent as the defendni" 
multitude, ^ 

On a little red-covered table b) the side of a 
little tacked label which savs "Cold Steel: 
May 9," there is a twisted French bayonet— .i 
bayonet, the flesh-weapon, which has been twisted ' 

" Oh, it's line ! " says a young girl from the cast ..•. 

"It isn't Fritz md Jerry, old chap, that bends 
bayonets ! " 

" No doubt about it, we're the iirst soldiers in the 
world," says Rampaille. 

" We've set a beautiful example to the world ! " 
says the sprightly Member of the Upper House to 
all those present. 

Excitement grows around that bayonet. The 
young girl, who is beautiful and expansive, cannot 
tear herself away from it. At last she touches it with 
her finger, and shudders. She does not disguise her 
pleasant emotion : 

"I confess Im a patriot ! I'm more than that— 
I'm a patriot and a miUtarist ! " 

All heads around her are nodded in approval. 
That kind of talk never seems intemperate, for it 
touches on sacred things. 

And I, I see— in the night which falls for a mo- 
ment, amid the tempest of dying men which is 
subsiding on the ground— I see a monster in the 
form of a man and in the form of a vulture, who, 
with the death-rattle in his throat, holds towards 
that young girl the horrible head that is scalped 
hke a coronet, and says to her : " You do not know 
me, and you do not know, but you are hke me ! " 

The young girl's living laugh, as she goes off with 
a young officer, recalls me to events. 

All those who come after each other to the bayonet 
speak in the same way, and have the same proud 
eyes. 



NO! 



let mv tell you ! 



" They're not stronger than u 
It's us that's the strongest ! " 

•; Our allies are very g.,od, but it's lucky for them 
wc re there on the ob " ^ 

" Ah. la, la ! " 

" ^^'''V; y^^' there's only the Fundi f.,r it \1) 
the w,.rld admires them. Only we're always run- 
ning ourselves down." >» iUIl 

When you see that fever, that spectacle of in- 
toxication, these people who seize the slightest 
chance o glorify their country's physical forcx^ and 
the hardness of its fists. you hear echoing the words 
of the orators and the official poUticians • " There 
IS on y m our hearts the condemnation of barbarism 
and the love of lumanity " ; and you ask youS 
If there is a single public opinion in the world which 
is capable of bearing victory with dignity 

I stand aloof. I am a blot, like a bad prophet I 
bear this declaration, which bows me Uke an infernal 
burden . It IS only defeat which can open millions 

militarLm^ •'"' '^^' ""'^^ ^^'^estation. " Gel-man 

That is the final argument, that is the formula. 

Ves. German miUtarism is hateful, and must dis- 

tlckhr^n. \ Ik' t'"'!'^ ^' ^Sreed about that-the 
ack-boots of the Junkers, of the Crown Princes, of 
ne Kaiser, and their courts of intellectuak; and 

business men and the pan-Germanism which would 

servil^u'T.K ^5!" ^"'^ ''^' ^"^ ^^^^ half-bestial 
serviU y of the German people. Germany is the 
hercest fortress of miUtarism". Yes. everybodv is 
agreed about that. -^ 

v.nfl *^7,^'^h° govern Thought take unfair ad 
IhlT ^^'=^t agreement, for they know well that 
when the simple folk have said " German miUtarism '' 
^hey have said all. They stop there. They amaSa- 
mate the two words, and confuse miUtarism with 




I ' 



ill: 



274 



LIGHT 



Germany — once Germany is thrown clown, there'*- 
no more to say. In that way. they attach lies t'^ 
truth, and prevent us from seeing that juilitarism i> 
in reality everywhere, more or less hypocrilical and 
unconscious, but ready to seize everything; if it can. 
lliey force opinion to add, " It is a crime to think of 
anytliing hut beating the German enemy." B\it tlie 
right-minded man must answer that it is a crime to 
tiiink only of that, for the enemy is miUtarism, and 
not Germany. I know ; I will no longer let myst If 
be caught by words which they hide one beliind 
another. 

The Liberal Member uf the Upper House says, 
loud enough to be heard, that the people have 
behaved very well, for after all, they have found tho 
cost, and they must be given credit for their good 
conduct. 

Another personage in the same group, an Army 
contractor, spoke of " the good chaps in tho 
trenches " ; and he added, in a lower voice : 

" As long as they're protecting us, we're all 
right." 

" We shall reward them when they come back." 
repUes an old lady ; " we shall give them glory ; we 
shell make their leaders into Marshals, and they "11 
have celebrations, and kings will be there." 

" And there are some who won't come back." 

We see several new recruits of the 1916 class who 
will soon be sent to the front. 

" They're pretty boys," says the Member of the 
Upper House, good-naturedly ; " but they're still a 
bit pale-faced. We nmst fatten 'em up, we must 
fatten 'em up ! " 

An official of the Ministry of War goes up to the 
Member of the Upper House, and says : 

" The science of military preparedness is still in 
i ts beginning. We're getting clear for it hastily, but 
it is an organisation which requires a long time, and 



() 



75 



I peare. 
\Vl' sli.iU 
f»f good 



which can onlv have full viU'ct in time 
Later, Wf >hall take lh»'in (roiii • liildhofol ; 
make good sound soldier^ of them, and 
health, morally as wi-ll as pliv>ioallv." 

Then the band plays ; it is closiuK time, and there 
is the passion of a military man h. A woman cries 
that it is like drinkint,' champagne to hear it. 

The visitors have gone away. I linger to look at 
the beflagged front of the War Museum, while night 
is falling. It is the Temple. It is joined to the 
Church, and resembles it. My thoughts go to those 
crosses which weigh down, from the pinnacles of 
churches, the heads of the living, join their two hands 
together, and close their eyes ; those crosses which 
squat upon the graves in the cemeteries at the front. 
It is because of all these temples that in the future 
the sleep-walking nations will begin again to go 
tiirough the immense and mournful tragedy of 
obedience. It is because of these temples tJiat 
financial and industrial tyranny, Imperial and Royal 
tyranny — of which all they whom I meet on my way 
are the accomplices or the puppets — will to-morrow 
begin again to wax fat, on the fanaticism of the 
civilian, on the weariness of those who have come 
back, on the silence of the dead. (When the armies 
file through the Arc de Triomphe, who is theie will 
see— and yet they will be plainly visible — that six 
thousand miles of French coffins are also passing 
through !) And the flag will continue to float over 
its prey, that fl-- stuck into the shadowy front 
of the War Mu .ii, that flag so twisted by the 
wind's breath that sometimes it takes the shape of 
a cross, and sometimes of a scythe ! 

Judgment is passed in that case. But the vision 
of the future agitates me with a sort of despair and 
with a holy thrill of anger. 

Ah, there are clouded moments when one asks 
himself if men do not deserve all the disasters into 



276 



I I c. n T 



m 



m\ 



l!;f li' ' 




winch they ni>li • No I mover myself—thcv (1< 
not deserve them. Hut ur. instead of sayinc " 
wish." must say " I will." And what we will w< 
must uill to build it, with order, with method, be 
gmning at the beginning, when oikc we have hen 
ii^ far as that beginning. We must not only open oui 
eyes, but our arms, our wings. 

This isolated wooden building, with its bad 
against a wood pile, and nobody in it : 

Burn it ? Destroy it ? I thought of doing it. 

To cast that light in the face of that moving night 
which was crawling and trampling there in th.' 
twiUght, which has gone to plunge into the town and 
grow darker among the dungeon-cells of the bf-d 
chambers, there to hatch more forgetfulness in tiie 
gloom, more evil and misery, or to breed unavailing 
generations who will be abortive at the age of twenty'' 

The desire to do it gripped my body for a moment 
1 tell back, and I went ^way, hke the others. 

It seems to me that, in not doing it, I did an evil 
deed. 

For if the men who are to come free themselves 
instead of sinking in the quicksands, if they consider, 
with lucidity and with the epic pity it deserves, this 
age through which I go drowning, they would 
perhaps have thanked me, even me ! From those 
who will not see or know me, but in whom for this 
sudden moment I want to hope, I beg pardon for 
not doing it. ^ o r 



In a corner where the neglected land is turning 
into a desert, and which lies across my way home, 
some children are throwing stones at a mirror which 
they have placed a few steps away as a target. They 
jostle each other, shouting noisily ; each of them 
wants the glory of being the first to break it. I see 
the mirror again that I broke with a brick at 



NO! 



^n 






I 



Buzancy, because it scenitd to stand tipright like a 
living being ! Next, wlu-n the fragment of solid 
light is shattered into crumbs, they pursue with 
stones an old dog. whose wounded foot trails like 
his tail. No one wants it an> more, it is ready to be 
tmished oli, and the urdiius an.' improving the occa- 
sion. Limping, his pot-hanger .spine all arched, the 
animal hurries slowly, and tries vainly to go faster 
than the pebbles. 

The child is only a confused handful of confused 
and superficial propensities. Our deep instincts — 
there they are. 

I scatter the children, and they withdraw into the 
shadows unwiUingly, and look at me with malice. 
I am distressed by this maliciousness which is born 
full grown. I am «^Ustressed also by this old dog's 
lot. They would not understand me if I acknow- 
ledged that distress ; they would say, " And you 
who've seen so many wounded and dead ! " All the 
same, there is a supreme respect for life. I am not 
slighting intellect ; but hfc is common to us along 
with poorer living things than ourselves. He who 
kills an animal, however lowly it may be, unless there 
is necessity, is an assassm. 

At the crotising I meet Louise Vertc, wandering 
about. She has gone crazy. She continues to accost 
men, but they do not even know what she begs for. 
She rambles, in the streets, and in her hovel, and 
on the pallet where she is crucified by drunkards. 
She is surrou-ided by general hjathing. " That, a 
woman ? " says a virt" )us man who is going hy ; 
" that dirty old strumpet ? A woman ? A sewer, 
yes." She is harmless. In a feeble, peaceful voice, 
which seems to live in some supernatural region, 
very far from us, she says to me : 

" I am the queen." 

Immediately and strangely she adds, as though 
troubled by some foreboding • 



278 



M(, IIT 



" Don't take my illusion away from me." 

I wa^, on ihf point of answtriiif,' litr hut I died 

mysdf, and just ^ay " Yes." as one tiirowh a coppci 

and blic goes away happy. 



My respect for life is so strong that I feel pitv 
for a fly which I have killed. Observing the tin\ 
corpse at the giKantic height of mv eves. I cannot 
help thinking how well made that organised speck o( 
dust is, whose wings are little more than two drop. 
of space, whose eye has four thousand facets ; and 
that fly occupies my thought for a moment, which is 
a long time for it. 




CHAPTER XXII 



LIGHT 



I AM leaning this evening out of the open window 
As in bygone nights, 1 am watching the dark pic- 
ture, m visible at first, taking shape— the steeple 
towermg out of the hollow, and broadly lighted 
against the hill; the castle, that rich crown of 
masonry ; and then the massive sloping black of the 
chimney-peopled roofs, which are sharply outlin(;(l 
against the paler black of space, and some milky, 
watchmg windows. The eye is lost in all directions 
among this desolation where the multitude of men 
and women are liiding, as always and as everywhere. 
That is what is Who will say, " That is what 
must be ! " 

I have searched, I have indistinctly seen, I havv 
doubted. Now, I hope. 

I do not regret my youth and its beliefs. Up to 
now, I have wasted my time to live. Youth is the 



true force, but it is too rarely lucid Sometiinori it 
lias a triumi)hant likiji^ for what is m'W, ami the 
piiL:na(ious broadside of paradox mav pl<asf it. 
Hill there is a degree in innovation whi. h thev wlio 
have not lived very much cannot ;ittain. And yet 
who kiiKWs if the ^tern |L;reatness nf present events 
will not have tdnrated atid ap-d the K^n^^^ration 
whi{ h to-day forms humanity's affet ting frontier ? 
Whatever our h<»pe may he. if we did not place it Jn 
vouth, where should we plare it ? 

Who will speak— See, and tiicn speak ? To speak 
is the same thing as to sec, but it is more. Speech 
perpetuates vision. We carry no light ; we are 
things of shadow, for night closes our eyes, and we 
put out our hands to hnil our way when the light is 
gone ; we only shine in speech ; truth is made by 
the mouths of men. The wind of words — what is it ? 
It IS our breath — not all words, for there are artilicial 
and copied ones which are not part of the speaker ; 
but the profound words, the cries. In the human 
cry, you feel the efiort of the spring. The cry comes 
out of us ; it is as living as a child. The cry goes 
on, and makes the appeal of truth wherever it may 
be, the cry gathers cries. 

There is a voice, a low and untiring voice, which 
helps those who do not and will not see themselve , 
a voice which brings them together, Books — the 
book we choose, the favourite, the book you open, 
which was waiting for you ! 

Formerly, I hardly knew any books. Now, I love 
what they do. I have brought together as many ?" 
I could. There they are, on the shelves, with theii 
immense titles, their regular, profound contents ; 
they are there, all around me, arranged like houses. 



Who will tell the truth ? But it is not enough to 
say tilings in order to let them be seen. 



2So 



L I G n r 






! i: 




if 

■iHI 



JuHt n.m, punned by the idea of niv teniptatim 
at the War Mll^cum, I imaKimd that I had ucied . i 
If, and that I Nva> appfariiiK Infore th.* judges. 
should haw tr.ld thtiu a hm- h.t nf tiuths, I should 
have pinvrd tt. th.m that f hail d.mo i^ht ; I sh..uK 
hav»' ma.lf niyMlf, the at\used, int.. the pt..^«rutMi 
N«' f I >h(.uld nut have spokiii thus, for I ?»houl. 
not ha\i- known ! | should have ^tood stanuncruij,' 
lull of i 'ruth throbbing within nu'. ( hoking. uncn 
fosabh' i.uth. It is not enough to speak ; you muM 
know words. Wlun you have said. " I am in nam ' 
or wh.u ><>u have- said, *' I am right." you havi- !,ai.l 
nothing m reality, you have only spo^ccn to your^ 1| 
I he real presciKc of truth i- not in every word ol 
truth, because of thr wei'r and tear of words, aii.l 
the tleetmg tmUtiplidty of argunit-nts. One mu^t 
have the gift of persuasif.n, of leaving to truth its 
speaking simplirit\-, its solemn urfoldings. It is not 
I who will be able to speak from the dt-pths of my- 
self. The attention of men dazzles me when it 
rises before irie. The very nakedness of paper 
frightens me and drowns my looks. Not I shall 
embilli^h that whiteness with writing like light. I 
understand of what a great tribunes sorrow is maili- 
and I can only dream of him who, visiblv summaris ng 
the immense crisis of human mc'ssity in a work 
which forgets nothing, which seems to forget nothing 
without the blot even of a misplaced comma, will 
pnKlaim our Charter to the epochs of the times in 
which we are. and will let us see it. Blessed be that 
simphfier, from whatever country he may come - 
but all the same I should prefer lum, at the bottom 
of my heart, to speak French. 

Once more, he intervenes within me who first 
showed himself to me as the spectre of evil, he who 
guided me through hell. When the death-agony was 
choking him and his head had darkened Uke an 
eagles, he hurled .i r,,rse which I did not under- 



f. I r, II T 



281 



siaml, wluch I un<UrNtiitul now. nix th«' master- 
ji.tces of art Ho wa> alr.iul of tluti I'trrnity, of 
lliat terrible nuKlit tiuy liavc--\v}»en otue they aiv 
imprmtiU on the eye* of an ep<Mh— the strength 
whkh you tan mithtr kiti nor driv ir front of 
yttu. Ih; saitl that N'elaxjuez, who was only u 
chamUrlain, had Muaeded IMiihp I\'. that he 
wnuld sjiiteed the Ivsrurial, that he would siicceed 
even Spain and ICiUope. \lv likened that artistic 
jM)wer, whii h the kings have tamed in all rrs|M'ets 
save in its greatness, to that of a poet-reformer 
who throws a saying of fnedom and justice 
abroad, a book whirh scatters sparks amt)ng 
humanity '•ombre as coal. The voice of the expiring 
prince crawled on the grovmd and throbbed with 
secret blows : " Begone, all you voices of light ! " 



But what shall ur say ? Let us spell out the 
Magna Charta of which we humbly catch sight. 
Let us say to the pconle of whom all peoples are 
made ; " Wake up and understand, look and sec ; 
ar ' ha'.ing begun again the consciousness which 
was mown down by slavery, decide that everything 
must be begun again ! " 

Begin again, entirely. Yes, that hrst. If the 
human charter docs not recreate everything, it will 
create nothing. 

I'nless they arc universal, the reforms to be 
carried out are Utopian and mortal. National re- 
forms arc only fragments of reforms. There must 
be no half-measures. Half-measures are laughter- 
provoking in their unbounded Utt jness when it is 
a question for the last time of arresting the world's 
roll down the hill of horror. There must jc no half- 
measures because there are no half-truths. Do ail, 
or you will do nothing. 

Above all, clo not let reforms be undertaken by 




m 



•r 



li 




^8. 



L I C, H T 



the kingv Ih.it is the gravest fhing to be- Ukw\\ 
you. I he ovcrtun-* of hhcralitv nuiK- I ,' ti.. 
t»i;pt. r> \vfu> ha\i- nuidr tht- uorhl whit it u art 
onlv loiiudus I hi'v an- ntily w.i\ ^ nf M.w k.uJirjs 
compk'ti'ly the p^MKl,.^^ f. loriir. c.f hiukhiiK up tl.. 
past iKain iMhind inw patrhvvork .-f pl.i .ut. 

N(V(r h>t»ii. cither, to th.' hue wor.U ihiv othr 
y«)i», thf Kttirs of whith you mv hk.- dtv hnrj.M ,.,1 
hoardings atul th- front, of buildingv I htrf ;ii. 
olluial |)nH:lamations, full of the notion of jihntx 
and rights, which w..uhl bo iMMiniful if they said 
truly what they sav. Hut thev who mmposo th.n. 
do not att.'»Lh their full nuaning to the words \\ |, i- 
they recite they are not capable of wanting, nor e\, n 
of understanding. The one indisputable sign of t.to- 
gress in ideas tr)-day is that there are things win. Ii 
t hoy dare no longer leave publicly unsaid ; and 
that s all. Ihcre are not all the political parti, s 
that tfiero seem to be. They swarm, c.-rtainly u. 
numerous as the cases of short sight ; but there art- 
only two -the democrats and the conservative* 
Every political deed ends fatally either in one or 
the other, and all their leaders have always a n- 
dency to act in the direction of reaction. Hev.are 
and never forget that if certain assertions arc n;,uk 
by certain hps, that is a suflicient reason why vnii 
should at once mistrust them. When the bleacii.d 
old repubhcans' take your cause in their hands bo 
quite sure that it is not yours. Bo wary as lions 

Do not let the simplicity of the new world out ..f 
your sight. The social truth is si' j. The compli- 
catiorjs are in what is overhead— the accumulation 
of delusions and prejudice heaped up by ages „f 
tyrants, parasites, and lawyers. That convirti..n 
sheds a real ghnimer of light on your duty atul 
points out the way to accomplish it. Ife who would 



Li<. in 



.•••*j 



dis' iikIiI tl«.\vn {i> the ttuth nil! t '^unplifv . Iii"« f lli 
must be hiut.ilU ^in»|)lr, en In- !>* |i»<,i |..»i !i at the 
■^uhtli' !ih.iUr<> .iitd (h>itii)( tioiiH of the ilu tortiiuiit 
.in*l the -jH tiuliHt })li\ >i( i.it»>. Say a\<mi\ " I hi» 
1 wli.it is " ; atvl thtn. "' I iiat (•. what iini^t In." 

Y««u will tu'Vii have that simnhcit>, )ou |Mi»pie 

if tho worhl. if \i>\\ <lo not m ize it. If you want it. 

do it voui-Mlf with \in\\ «i\vu hands. And I ^[ve 

von now the tali'^inan, the wondnftd ina^'ii' word — 

vku I tin ! 

That you may b<' a jndK'' of cxintin^ thinf,'s. ^.i 
ha< k to their ori^'ins. and ^et at the JinK^ of all. 
Ilie niihlest and most fruilfid work <-l the human 
iiitellit,'encc is to n»ak»» a • lem nweep of ovcrv cr- 
furred idea— of advantages or meanings- and to go 
right throtigh appearand s in search of the etern;'! 
Imh's. Thus you will dearly see the nutral law at 
till' bcginninc? of all things, and the conception of 
justice ami c<piality will appear to you, beautiful as 
daylight. 

Strong in lliat supreme sitn;'licity, you shall say : 
I am the people of peoples ; therefore I am the king 
of kings, and I will that sovereignty n(»n's every- 
where from mo. since I am might and right. I want 
no more despots, confessed or otherwise, great or 
little ; I know, and I want no more. The incom- 
plete liberation of 17S() was attacked by the kings. 
( ompletc liberation will attack the kings. 

But the kings arc not exclusively the uniformed 
ones among the trumpery wares of the courts. 
Assuredly the nations who have a king ha\e more 
tradition and subjection than the others. But there 
are countries where no man can get up and say, 
" Mv people, my army," nations which only ex- 
perience tlic continuation of the kingly tradition in 
more peaceful intensity. There are others with the 
great ligures of democratic leaders ; but as long as 
the entirety of things is not overthrown — always 



284 



LIGHT 



the entirety, the sacred entirety— these men cannot 
achieve the impossible, and sooner or later their too 
beautiful inclinations will be isolated and misunder- 
stood. In the formidable urgency of progress, what 
do the proportions matter to you of the elements 
which make up the old order of things in the world > 
All the governors cUng fatally together among them- 
selves, and more sohdly than you think, through the 
old machine of chancelleries, ministries, diplomacy 
and the ceremonials with gilded swords ; and when 
they are bent on making war for themselves there 
is an unquenchable likeness between them all of 
which you want no more. Break the chain ; sup- 
press all privileges, and say at last, " Let there be 
equaUty." 

One man is as good as another. That means that 
no man carries within himself any privilege which 
puts him above the universal law. It means an 
equality in principle, and that does not invahdate 
the legitimacy 01 the differences due to work, to 
talent, and to moral sense. The levelling only affects 
the rights of the citizen, and not the man as a whole. 
You do not create the living being ; you do not 
fashion the hving clay, as God did in the Bibles ; you 
make regulations. Individual worth, on which 
some pretend to rely, is relative and unstable, and 
no one is a judge of it. In a well-organised entirety, 
It cultivates and improves itself automatically. But 
that magnificent anarchy cannot, at the inception 
of the human Charter, take the place of the obvious- 
ness of equaUty. 

The poor man, the proletarian, is nobler than 
another, but not more sacred. In truth, all workers 
and all honest men are as good as each other. But 
the poor, the exploited, are fifteen hundred millions 
here on earth. They are the Law because they are 
the Number. The moral law is only the imperative 
preparation of the common good. It always in- 



LIGHT 



285 



volves, in different forms, the necessary limitations 
of some individual interests by the rest ; that is to 
say, the sacrifice of one to the many, of the many to 
the whole. The republican conception is the civic 
translation of the moral law ; what is anti-republi- 
can is immoral. 

Socially, women are the equals of men, without 
restriction. The beings who shine and who bring 
forth are not made solely to lend or to give the heat 
of their bodies. It is right that the sum total of 
work should be shared, reduced, and harmonised by 
their hands. It is just that the fate of humanity 
should be grounded also in the strength of women. 
Whatever the danger which their instinctive love 
of shining things may occasion, in spite of the 
facility with which they colour all things with their 
own feelings, and the totality of their slightest im- 
pulses— the legend of their incapacity is a fog that 
you will dissipate with a gesture of your hands. 
Their advent is in the order of things ; and it is 
also in order to await with hopeful heart the day 
when the social and political chains of women will 
fall off, when human liberty will suddenly become 
twice as great. 

People of the world, establish equality right up to 
the limits of your great life. Lay the foundations of 
the repubhc of republics over all the area where you 
breathe; that is to say, the common control in 
broad daylight of all external affairs, of community 
in the laws of labour, of production and of com- 
merce. The subdivision of these high social and 
moral arrangements by nations or by limited unions 
of nations (enlargements which are reductions) is 
artificial, arbitrary, and malignant. The so-called 
mseparable cohesions of national interests vanish 
away as soon as you draw near to examine them. 
There are individual interests and a general interest 
those two only. When you say " I," it means " I " ' 



286 



LIGHT 



Mm 



vim' 



Mr 



»IB" 



when you say "we," it means Man. So long as a 
single and idcntiral Republic does not cover the 
world, all national liberations can only be beginnincs 
and signals ! 

Thus you will disarm the " fatherlands and 
motherlands," and you will reduce the notion of 
Motherland to the little bit of social importance 
that it must have. You will do away with the mili- 
tary frontiers, and those economic and commercial 
barriers which are still worse. Protection introducf s 
violence into the expansion of labour ; hke mili- 
tarism, it brings in a fatal absence of balance. You 
will suppress that which justifies among nations the 
things which among individuals we call murder, 
robbery, and unfair competition. You will suppress 
battles — not nearly so much by the direct measures 
of supervision and order that you will take as 
because you will suppress the causes of battle. You 
will suppress them chiefly because it is you who will 
do it, by yourself, everywhere, with your invincible 
strength and the lucid conscience that is free from 
selfish motives. You will not make war on yourself. 

You will not be afraid of magic formulas and the 
churches. Your giant reason will destroy the idol 
which suffocates its true believers. You will salute 
the flags for the last time ; to that ancient enthus- 
iasm which flattered the puerility of your ancestors, 
you will say a peaceful and final farewell. In some 
corners of the calamities of the past, there were times 
of tender emotion ; but truth is greater, and there 
are no more boundaries on the earth than on the 
sea ! 

Each country will be a moral force, and no longer 
a brutal force ; while all brutal forces clash with 
themselves, all moral forces make mighty harmony 
together. 

The universal republic is the inevitable conse- 
quence of equal rights in life for all. Start from the 



L I G H T 



287 



principle of equality, and you arrive at the people's 
international. If you do not arrive there it is 
because you have not reasoned aright. 1 hey who 
start from the opposite point of view— God, and the 
divine rights of popes and kings and nobles, and 
authority and tradition— will come by fabulous 
paths, but quite logically, to opposite conclusions. 
You must not cease to hold that there are only two 
teachings face to face. All things are amenable 
to reason, the supreme Reason which mutilated 
humanity, wounded in the eyes, has deified among 
the clouds. 



You will do away with the rights of the dead, and 
with heredity of power whatever it may be, that 
inhentance which is unjust in all its gradations, for 
tradition takes root there, and it is an outrage on 
equahty and against the order of labour. Labour is a 
great civic deed which all men and all women with- 
out exception must share or go down . Such division 
will reduce it for each one to dignified proportions, 
and prevent it from devouring human lives. 

You will not permit colonial ownership by States, 
which makes stains on the map of the world and is 
not justified by confessable reasons ; and you will 
organise the aboUtion of that collective slavery. 
You will allow the individual property of the hving 
to stand. It is equitable because its necessity is 
inherent in the circumstances of the Hving, and be- 
cause there are cases where you cannot tear away 
the nght of ownership without tearing right itself. 
Besides, the love of things is a passion, like the love 
of beings. The object of social organisation is no+ 
to destroy sentiment and pleasure, but on the con- 
trary to allow them to flourish, within the Umit of 
not wronging others. It is right to enjoy what you 
have clearly earned by your work. That focussed 



288 



LIGHT 



'I' 



ii'S 



h V 



V * 



wisdom alone bursts among the old order of things 
like a curse. 

Chase away for ever, everywhere, everywhere, the 
bad teachers of the sacred schools. Education in- 
cessantly remakes the whole of civiHs, tion. The 
child's intelligence is too precious not to be under 
the protection of all. The heads of famiHes are not 
free to deal according to their caprices with tli( 
ignorance which each child brings into the daylight ; 
they have not that liberty contrary to liberty. A 
child does not belong body and soul to its parents ; 
it is a person, and our ears are wounded by the 
blasphemy — a residue of despotic Roman tradition 
— of those who speak of their sons killed in the war, 
and say, " I have given my son." You do not give 
living beings — and all intelligence belongs primaril}- 
to reason. 

There must no longer be a single school where 
they teach idolatry, where the wills of to-morrow 
grow bigger under the terror of a God who does not 
exist, and on whom so many bad arguments are 
thrown away or justified. Nowhere must there be 
any more school books where they dress up in some 
finery of prestige what is most contemptible and 
debasing in the past of the nations. Let there bo 
nothing but universal histories, nothing but the 
great Unes and peaks, the lights and shadows of that 
chaos which for six thousand years has been the 
fortune of two hundred thousand miUions of men. 

You will suppress everywhere the advertising of 
the cults, you will wipe away the inky uniform of 
the parsons. Let every believer keep his religion for 
himself, and let the priests stay between walls. 
Toleration in face of error is a graver error. One 
might have dreamed of a wise and universal church, 
for Jesus Christ will be justified in his human teach- 
ing as long as there are hearts. But they who have 
taken this morality in hand and fabricated their 



LKiHT 



^Sg 



religion have poisoned the truth ; inr.rc, tlu) ha\^ 
fiown for two thousand years that they place the 
interests of their caste before those of the sacred 
1 uv of what is right. No words, no figures can ever 
Kive an idea of the evil which the Church has done 
to mankind. When she is not the oppressor herself, 
upholding the night of force, she lends her authority 
to the oppressors and sanctifies their pretences ; and 
still to-day she is closely united everywhere with 
tliosc who do not want the reign of the poor. Just 
as the Jingoes invoke the delights of the domestic 
cradle that they may give an impetus to war. so 
does the Church invoke the poetry of the gospels ; 
but she has become an aristocratic party like the 
rest, in whicli every gesture of the sign of the cross 
IS a slap in the face of Jesus Christ. Out of the love 
of one's native soil they have made Nationalists ; 
out of Jesus they have made Jesv'ls. 

Only international greatness will at last permit 
the rooting up of the stubborn abuses which the 
partition walls of nationality multiply, entangle, 
and solidify. The future Charter— of which we con- 
fusedly glimpse some signs and which lias for its 
premises the great moral principles restored to their 
place, and the multitude at last restored to theirs— 
will force the newspapers to confess all their re- 
sources. By means of a young language, simple and 
modest, it will unite all foreigners— those prisoners 
of themselves. It will mow down the hateful com- 
plexity of judicial procedure, with its booty for the 
s<jmebodies and its lawyers as well, who intrude the 
tncks of diplomacy and the melodramatic usages 
of eloquence into the plain and simple machinery of 
justice. The righteous man must go so far as to say 
that clemency has not its place in justice ; the logi- 
cal majesty of the sentence which condemns the 
guilty one in order to frighten possible evildoers 
(and never for another reason) is itself beyond for- 
u 



20O 



LIGHT 



givenoss. International dignity will close the 
taverns, forbid the sale of poisons, and will reduce 
to impotence the vendors who want to render abor- 
tive, in men and young people, the future's beauty 
and the reign of intelligence. And here is a man- 
date which appears before my eyes — the tenacious 
law whicli must pounce without respite on all pubhc 
robbers, on all those, little and big, cynics or hypo- 
crites, who, when their trade or their functions bring 
the opportunity, exploit misery and speculate oi: 
necessity. There is a new hierarchy to make mis- 
takes, to commit offences and crimes — the true one. 
You can form no idea of the beauty that is pos- 
sible I You cannot imagine what all the squandered 
treasure can provide, what can be brought on by 
the resurrection of misguided human intelligence, 
successively smothered and slain hitherto by in- 
famous slavciy, by the despicable infectious neces- 
sity of armed attack and defence, and by the privi- 
leges which debase human worth. You can have no 
notion what human intelligence may one day find 
of new adoration. The people's absolute reign will 
give to literature and the arts — whose harmonious 
shape is still but roughly sketched — a splendour 
boundless as the rest. National cliques cultivate 
narrowness and ignorance, they cause originality to 
waste away ; and the national academies, to wli'^^h 
a residue of superstition lends respect, are only 
pompous ways of upholding ruins. The domes of 
those Institutes which look so grand when they 
tower above you are as ridiculous as extinguishers. 
You must widen and internationalise, without pause 
or limit, all which permits of it. With its barriers 
collapsed, you must fill society with broad daylight 
and magnificent spaces ; with patience and heroism 
must you clear the ways which lead from the indi- 
vidual to humanity, the ways which were stopped 
up with corpses of ideas and with stone images all 



LIGHT 29X 

along their great curving horizons. Let everything 
be remade on simple lines. There is only one people, 
there is only one people ! 



If you do that, you will be able to say that, at the 
moment hen you planned your effort and took 
your decision, you saved the human species as far 
as it is possible on earth to do it. You will not have 
brought happiness about. The fallacy-mongers do 
not frighten us when they preach resignation and 
paralysis on the plea that no social change can bring 
happiness, thus trifling with these profound things. 
Happiness is part of the inner life, it is an intimate 
and personal paradise ; it is a flash of chance or 
genius which comes sweetly to life among those who 
elbow each other, and it is also the sense of glory. 
No, it is not in your hands, an ' so it is in nobody's 
hands. But a balanced and heedful life is necessary 
to man, that he may build the isolated home of hap- 
piness ; and death is the fearful connection of the 
happenings which pass away along with our pro- 
fundities. External things and those which are 
hidden are essentially different, but they are held 
together by peace and by death. 

To accomplish the majestically practical work, to 
shape the whole architecture like a statue, base 
nothing on impo...i'ole modifications of human 
nature ; await nothing from pity. 

Charity is a privilege, and must disappear. For 
the rest, you cannot love unknown people any more 
than you can have pity on them. The human in- 
telligence is made for infinity ; the heart is not. 
The being who really suffers, in his heart, and not 
merely in his mind or in words, by the suffering of 
others whom he neither sees nor touches, is a ner- 
vous abnormality, and he cannot be argued from as 
an example. The repulse of reason, the blot of 



292 



LIGHT 



absurdity, torture the intelligence in a more abun 
dant way. Simple as it may be, social science is oi 
geometry. Do not accept the sentimental meanitit; 
they give to the word " humanitarianism," saying 
that the preaching of fraternity and love is vain 
these words lose their meaning ami( the gre;u 
numbers of man. It is in this disordered confusion 
of feelings and ideas that one feels the presence ui 
Utopia. You do not press humanity to your bosom 
Mutual solidarity is of the intellect— common senMv 
logic, methodical precision, order without falterinc;! 
the ruthless inevitable perfection of light ! 

In my fervour, in my hunger, and from the depH ^ 
of my abyss I uttered these words aloJid amid tie 
silence. My great reverie was blended with sont; 
like the Ninth Symphony. 



I am resting on my elbows at the window. I am 
looking at the night, which is everywhere, which 
touches me, me, although I am only I, and it is 
infinite night. It seems to me that there is nothing 
else left me to think about. Things chng together ; 
they will save each other, and will do their setting 
in order. 

But again I am seized by the sharpest of my 
agonies ; I am afraid that the multitude may rest 
content with the partial gratifications to be granted 
them everywhere by those wh*- will use all their 
clinging, cunning power to prever . the people frim 
understanding, and then from wishing. On the day 
of victory, they will pour intoxication and dazzling 
deceptions into you, and put almost superhuman 
cries into your mouths, " We have delivered 
humanity; we are the soldiers of the Right!" 
^thout telling you all that such a statement includes 
of gravity, of immense pledges and constructive 
genius, what it involves in respect for great peoples. 



LIGHT 



293 



whoever they are, and of gratitude to those wlio are 
trying to deliver themselves. They will a.ain take 
up their eternal mission of stupefying the great 
conscious forces, and turning them aside from their 
ends. They will appeal for union and peace and 
patience, to the opportunism of changes, to the 
danger of going too quickly, or of meddling in your 
neighbour's affairs, and all the other fallacies of 
the sort. They will try again to ridicule and strike 
down those whom the newspapers (the ones in their 
p:v) call dreamers, sectarians, and t.aitors; once 
again they will flourish all their old taUsmans. 
Doubtless they will propose, in the fashionable 
words of the moment, some official parodies of 
mtemational justice, which will break up one day 
hke theatr'cal scenery ; they will enunciate some 
popular right, curtailed by childish restrictions and 
monstrous definitions, resembling a brigand's code 
ot honour. The wrong torn from confessed autocra- 
cies will hatch out elsewhere— in the sham republics, 
and the self-styled Uberal countries who have 
played a hidden game. The concessions they will 
make will clothe the old rctten autocracy again, and 
perpetuate it. One imperialism will replace the 
other, and the generations to come will be marked 
for the sword. Soldier, wherever you are, they will 
try to efface your memory, or to exploit it by leading 
it astray ; and forgetfulness of the truth is the first 
form of your adversity ! May neither defeat nor 
victory be against you. You are above both of 
them, for you are all the people. 



The skies are peopled with stars, a harmony which 
clasps reason close, and applies the mind to the 
adorable idea of universal unity. Must that harmony 
give us hope or misgiving ? 

We are in a great night of the world. The thing 



204 



LIGHT 



I 



I ! 



irt to know if wc shall wake up tomorrow. Wc have 
only one succour— »•<? know of what the night is 
made. But nhall wc he able to impart our lutid 
faith, seeing that the heraldn of warning are every- 
where few and that the greatest victims hate tlu- 
only ideal which is not one, and call it Utopian ^ 
IHiblic opinion floats ov«;r the surface of the peopk"^, 
wavering and submissive to the wind ; it Irnds but 
fleeting conscience and conviction to the majority ; 
it cries, "Down with the reformeis!" It cries. 
" Sacrilege f " because it is made to see in its vague 
thoughts what it could not itself see there. It 
cries that they are distorting it, whereas they are 
enlarging it. 

I am not afraid, as many are and as I once was 
myself, of being reviled and slandered. I do not 
cling to respect and gratitude for myself. But if I 
succeed in reaching men, I should hke them not 
to curse me. Wliy should they, since it is not for 
myseH ? It is -> ily because I am sure I am right, 
I am sure of the principles I see at the source of 
all— justice, 'ogic, equahty ; all those c'vintly 
human truths whose contrast with the realised 
truth of to-day is so heart-breaking. And I want to 
appeal to you all ; and that confidence which fills 
me with a tragic joy, I want to give it to you, at 
once as a command and as a prayer. There arc not 
several ways of attaining it athwart everything, and 
of fastening hfe and the truth together again ; there 
is only one — right-doing. Let Rule begin again 
with the sublime control of the intellect. I am a 
man like the rest, a mafl like you. You who shake 
your head or shrug your shoulders as you listen to 
me — why are we, we two, we all, so foreign to each 
other, when we are not foreign ? 

I believe, in spite of all, in tnith's victory. 1 
believe in the momentous value, hereafter inviolable. 
of those few truly fraternal men in all the countries 



L I c; H T 



i«)5 



of the world, wh«», in the «>«:iUation of ruuioni 
«'«oisrm let loose, ntand up and stand out, steadfast 
.IS the glorious »tatuc<* of Kight and Duty. Tonight 
I Iwhevc— nay, I am certain— that the ne »nler 
will be built upon that archipelago of men. Kvcn 
if we have still to suffer as far as we can see ahead. 
the idea can no mt»rc cease to throb and grow 
>ir«»nger than the human heart can ; and the will 
which is already rising here and there they can no 
longer destroy. 

I proclaim the inevitable advent of the universal 
republic. Not the transient backslidings, nor the 
darkness and the dread, nor the tragic dif.icult>' o{ 
uplifting the world everywliere at once, will prevent 
the fuUilment of international truth. But if the 
great powers of daikiiess ptrrsist in holding their 
positions, if they • •'hose clear cries of warning should 
l>e voices crying in the wilderness— O you people of 
tiie world, you the unwearying vanquished of His- 
tory, I appeal to your justice and I appeal to your 
anger. Over the vague quarrels which drench the 
strands with blood, over the plunderers of .-.hip- 
wrecks, over the jetsam and the reefs, and the 
palaces and monuments built upon the sand, I see 
tlie high tide rorhing. Truth is only revolutionary 
by reason of error's disorder. Revolution is Order. 



CHAPTER XXIH 



FACE TO FACE 



Through the panes I see the town— I often take 
refuge at the windows. Then I go into Marie's bed- 
room, which gives a view of the country. It is su . 
a narrow room that to get to the window I mu. 



396 



LIGHT 



' 



■ 



touch her tidy Uttle bed. and I think of her us I 
pis* it. A bod i» Komething which never •ecni'* 
either m cold or m Ufclcss as other tlung* ; it hvf» 
by an absence. 

Marie it working in the house, downitaint. I 
hear sounds of movcti furniture, of a brm>m, and tin- 
recurring kiiork of the shovel on the bucket iru«. 
which »he emptieii the dust »hc .las collected. That 
v icty i* badly arranged which forces nearly all 
w. n to be servants. Marie, who in as gmid a-' I 
am, will have i\Kin her life in cleaning, in stoopi - 
amid dust and hot fumes, over head and cars in 
the great artilicial darkness of the house. I tiM.l 
to find it all natural. Now I think it is all anti- 
natural. 

I hear no more sounds. Marie has finished. She 
comes up beside me. We have sought each otluT 
and come together as often as |)ossiblc since the 
day when she saw so clearly that we no longer 
loved each other I 

We sir closely side by side, and watch the end of 
the day. We can see the last houses of the town, 
in the bt>,'inning of the valley, low houses within 
enclosures, and yards, and gardens stocked with 
sheds. Ai tumn is making the gardens qui.c tran- 
parent, ami reducing them to nothing through their 
trees and hedges ; yet here and there foHage still 
magnificenUy flourishes. It is not the wide land 
scape in its entirety which attracts us. It is more 
worth while to pick out each of the houses and i(»ok 
at it closely. 

These houses which form the finish of *he subtirb 
are not big and arc not prosperous ; but we see 
one adorning itself with smoke, and we think of the 
dead wood coming to life again on the hc.trth, and 
of the seated workman, whose hands arc rewarded 
with rest. And that one, although motifmlecs i« 
alive with children — the breeze is scattering the 



FACE TO FACE 



297 



laiiKhtor of their ganK*n and '^cem% to play with it ; 
am! cm the »andy ground arc the crurnh'» of i hildi<«h 
f.KUHteps, Our even follosv the po«ttnian, entering 
\m home, his work ended ; he hat* heroitatly over- 
come hi» long journey. After carrying letters all 
cUy to thoM who were waiting for tlK-ni, he i» 
c;»rr>ing himself to hin own people, who al-Ki 
await him— it i* the fanuly which knows the 
value of the father. He punhen the gate open, 
ho entern the garden path, hi» hamh arc at last 
empty ! 

Along by the old grey wall, old Eudo is making 
his way, the incurable widower whose bad news 
still stubbornly persists, so that he bear>. it alon« 
..iound him. uud it slackens his steps, ami can bo 
s^-en . and he takes up more space than he seems 
to take. A woman meets him, and her youth is 
disclosed in the twilight ; it expands in her hurning 
steps. It is Mina, going to some trysting-piacc. 
iihe crosses and presses her little fichu on her heart ; 
we can see that distance dwindles affectionately in 
front of her. As she passes away, bent foiward and 
smiUng with her ripe lips, wc can sec the strength 
of her heart. 

Mist is gradually falling. Now wc can only see 
white things clearlv— the new parts of houses, the 
walls, the high roa(l, joined to the other one by foot- 
paths which straggle through the dark fields, the 
big white stones, tranquil as sheep, and the horse- 
pond, whose gleam amid the far obscurity imitates 
whiteness in unexpected fasliion. Then we can 
only see light things^— the stains of faces and hands, 
those faces which see each other in the gloom longer 
than is logical, and exceed themselves. 

Pervaded by a sort of serious musing, we turn 
back into the room and sit down ; I on the edge of 
the bed, she on a chair in front of the open %\indow, 
in the centre of the pearly sky. 



298 



LIGHT 



Her thoughts are the same as mine, for she turns 
her face to me, and says : 
" And ourselves ? " 




She sighs for the thought she has. She would Uke 
to be silent, but she must speak. 

" We don't Iovq each other any more," she says, 
embarrassed by the greatness of the things she 
utters ; " but we did once, and I want to see our 
love again." 

She gets up, opens the wardrobe, and sits down 
again in the same place with a box in her hands. 
She says : 

" There it is. Those are our letters." 

" Our letters, our beautiful letters ! " she goes 
on ; "I could really say they're more beautiful 
than all others. We know them by heart — but 
would you Uke us to read them again ? You read 
them — there's still light enough — and let me see 
how happy we've been." 

She hands the casket to me. The letters we wrote 
each other during our engagement are arranged in 
it. 

" That one," she says, " is the first from you. 
Is it ? Yes — no, it isn't — do you think it is ? " 

I take the letter, murmur it, and then read it 
aloud. It spoke of the future, and said : "In a 
little while, how happy we shall be ! " 

She comes near, lowers her head, reads the date, 
and whispers : 

" 1902 — it's been dead for thirteen years — it's a 
long time — no, it isn't a long time — I don't know 
what it ought to be. Here's another — read it." 

I go on denuding the letters. We quickly find 
out what a mistake it was to say we know them by 
heart. This one has no date — simply the name of a 
day — Monday ; and we believed that would be 



FACE TO FACE 



299 



enough ! Now, it is entirely lost and become barren, 
this anonymous letter in the middle of the rest. 

" We don't know them by heart any more," 
Marie confesses ; " remember ourselves ? How could 
we remember all that ? " 



This reading was like that of a book once already 
read in bygone days. It could not revive again the 
diligent and fervent hours when our pens were 
moving — and our lips too, a Uttle. Indistinctly it 
brought back, with unfathomable gaps, the adven- 
ture lived in those days by others, the other people 
that we were. When I read a letter from her which 
spoke of caresses to come, Marie stammered, " And 
she dared to write that ! " but she did not blush and 
was not confused. 

Then she shook her head a little, and said 
dolefully : 

" What a lot of things we have hidden away, 
little by Uttle, in spite of ourselves ! How strong 
people must be to forget so much ! " 

Slie was beginning to catch a gUmpse of a bottom- 
less abyss, and to despair. Suddenly she broke in : 

" That's enough ! We can't read them again. 
We can't understand what's written. That's enough 
— don't take my illusion away." 

She spoke like the poor mad woman of the streets ; 
and added in a whisper : 

" This morning, when I opened that box where 
the letters were shut up, some little flies flew out." 

We stop reading the letters a moment, and look 
at them. The ashes of Ufe ! All that we can remem- 
ber is almost nothing. Memory is greater than we 
are, but memory is Uving and mortal as well. These 
letters, these unintelligible flowers, these bits of 
lace and of paper, what are they ? Around these 
flimsy things, what is there left ? We are handUng 



300 



LIGHT 



the casket together. Thus we are 
attached in the hollow of our hands. 



completely 



And yet we went on reading. 

But something strange is growing gradually 
greater, it grasps us, it surprises us hopelessly— 
every letter speaks of the future. 

In vain Marie said to me : 

" What about afterwards ? Try another— later on." 

Every letter said, " In a httle while, how we shall 
love each other when our time is spent together. 
How beautiful you will be w'ljn you are always 
there. Later on, we'll make that trip again ; alter 
a while we'll carry that scheme out, later on " 

" That's all we could say ! " 

A httle before the wedding we wrote that we were 
wasting our time so far from each other, and that 
we were unhappy. 

" Ah ! " said Marie, in a sort of terror, " we wrote 
that ! And after, afterwards " 

After, the letter from which we expected all, said : 

" Soon we shan't leave each other any more. At 
last we shall hve ! " And it spoke of a paradise, of 
the hfe that was coming : 

" And afterwards ? " 

" After that, there's nothing more— it's the last 
letter." 



There is nothing more. It is hke a stage-trick, 
suddenly reveahng the truth. There is nothing 
between the paradise dreamed of and the paradise 
lost. There is nothing, since we always want what 
we have not got. We hope, and then we regret. We 
hope for the future, then we turn to the past, and 
then we begin slowly and desperately to hope for 
the past! The two most violent and abiding feelings, 



FACE TO FACE 



301 



hope and regret, both lean upon nothing. To ask. 
to ask, to have not ! Humanity is exactly the same 
thing as poverty. Happiness has not the time to 
live ; we have not really the time to profit by what 
we are. Happiness, that thing which never is— and 
which yet, for one day, is no more ! 

I see her drawing breath, quivering, mortally 
wounded, sinking upon the chair. 

I take her hand, as I did before. I speak to her, 
rather timidly, and at random : " Carnal love isn't 
the whole of love." 

" It's love ! " Marie answers. 

I do not repl* 

" Ah." she says, " we try to juggle with words, 
but ^ can't conceal the truth." 

' ne truth ! — I'm going to tell you what I have 
been truly, / " 



I could not prevent myself from saying it, from 
crying it in a loud and trembUng voice, leaning over 
her. For some moments there had been outUned 
within me the tragic shape of the cry which at last 
came forth. It was a sort of madness of sincerity 
and simpUcity which seized me. 

And I unveil my Ufe to her, though it sUd away 
by the side of hers, all my Ufe, with its faihngs and 
its coarseness. I let her see me in my desires, in my 
hungers, in my entrails. 

Never has a confession so complete been thrown 
off. Yes, among the fates which men and women 
bear together, one must be ahnost mad not to lie. 
I tick off my past, the succession of love-affairs 
multipUed by each other, and come to naught. I 
have been an ordinary man, no better, no worse, 
than another ; well, here I am, here is the man, 
here is the lover. 

I can see that she has half risen in the Uttle bed- 



J02 



LIGHT 



I! 



room v^hich has lost its colour. She is afraid of the 
truth ! She watches my words as you look at a 
blasphemer. But the truth has seized me and cannot 
let me go. And I recall what was— both tliis woman 
and that, and all those whom I loved and never 
deigned to know what they brought me when they 
brought their bodies ; I recall the fierce selfishness 
which nothing exhausted, and ail the savagery ol 
my hfe beside her. I say it all— unable even to 
avoid the blows of bnital details— like a harsh duty 
accomphshed to the end. 

Sometimes she murmured, like a sigh, " I knew 
it." At others she would say, almost hke a sob, 
" That's true." And once, too, she began a con- 
fused protest, a sort of reproach. Ihen, soon, she 
listens higher. She might almost be left behind by 
the greatness of my confession ; and gradually I 
see her falling into silence, the twice-illumined 
woman on that adorable side of the room, who still 
receives, on her hair and neck and hands, some 
morsels of heaven. 

And what I am most ashamed of, in those bygone 
days when I was mad after the treasure of unknown 
wonien, is this ; that I spoke to them of eternal 
fidelity, of superhuman enticements, of divine 
exaltations, of sacred affinities which must be 
joined together at all costs, of beings who have 
always been waiting for each other, and are made for 
each other, and all that one can say — sometimes 
almost sincerely, alas !— just to gain my ends. I 
confess all that, I cast it from me as if I was at last 
ndding myself of the lies acted upon her, and upon 
the others, and upon myself. Instinct is instinct ; 
let it rule like a force of nature. But the Lie is a 
ravisher. 

I feel a sort of curse rising from me upon that 
bhnd religion with which we clothe the things of the 
flesh because they are strong, those Oi which I was 



FACE TO FACE 



303 



the plaything, like everybody, always and every- 
where. No ; two sensuous lovers are not two 
friends. Much rather are they two enemies, closely 
attached to each other. I know it, I know it ! 
There are perfect couples, no doubt — perfection 
always exists somewhere — but I mean we others, all 
of us, the ordinary people ! I know ! — the human 
being's real quahty, the delicate lights and shadows 
of human dreams, the sweet and compHcated mystery 
of personalities, sensuous lovers deride them, both 
of them ! They are two egoists, falUng fiercely on 
each other. Together they sacrifice themselves, 
utterly, in a flash of pleasure. There arc moments 
w'^^n one would lay hold forcibly on joy, if only a 
cnAiC stood in the way. I know it ; I know it though 
all those v«rhom I have successively used, whose 
bodies I have trodden down, whom I have scorned 
with shut eyes — even those were not better than I. 

And this hunger for novelty — which makes 
sensuous love equally changeful and rapacious, 
which makes us seek the same emotion in other 
bodies which we cast off as fast as they fall — turns 
hfe into an infernal succession of disenchantments, 
spites and scorns ; and it is chiefly this hunger which 
leaves us a prey to unrealisable hope and irrevocable 
regret. We divert oar care^ by jostling each other 
to the human limit. Ah, those Ups which serve only 
to hide the thoughts behind them, those shining eyes 
which never light up anything ! Those carnal lovers 
who persist in struggUng together execute them- 
selves ; the name of their common death, which at 
first was Absence, becomes Presence. The real 
outcast is not he who returns all alone, like 
Olympio;* they who remain together are more 
apart. 

By what right does carnal love say, " I am your 
hearts and minds a? 'vell, and we are indissoluble, 



' See "Tristessed'f 



o," poem by Victor Hugo. — Tr. 



304 



LIGHT 



and I sweep all along with my strokes of glory and 
defeat ; I am Love ! " It is not true, it is not true. 
Only by violence does it seize the whole of thought ; 
and the poets and lovers, equally ignorant and 
de.zzled, dress it up in a grandeur and profundity 
which it has not. The heart is strong and beautiful, 
but it is mad and it is a Uar. Moist lips in trans- 
figured faces murmur, " It's grand to be mad! " 
No— you do not elevate aberration into an ideal, 
and illusion is always a stain, whatever the name 
you lend it. 

By the curtain in the angle of the wall, upright 
and motionless, I am speaking in a low voice, but 
it seems to me that I am shouting and struggling. 

When I have spoken thus, we are no longer the 
same, for there are no more Hes. 

Atter a silence, Marie hfts to me the face of a 
shipwrecked woman with hfeless eyes, and asks me : 

" But if this love is an illusion, what is there 
left ? " 

I come near and look at her, to answer her. 
Against the window's still pallid sky I see her 
hair, silvered with a moon-like sheen, and her 
night-veiled face. Closely I look at the share of 
sublimity which she bears on it, and I reflect that 
I am infinitely attached to this woman, that it 
is not true to say she is of less moment to me 
because desire no longer throws me on her as it 
used to do. Is it habit ? No, not only that. Every- 
where habit exerts its gentle strength, perhaps be- 
tween us two also. But there is more. There is not 
only the narrowness of rooms to bring us together. 
There is more, there is more ! So I say to her : 

" There's you." 

" Me ? " she says. " I'm nothing." 

" Yes, you are everything, you're everything to 
me." 

She has stood up, stammering. She puts her 



m. 



FACE TO FACE 



305 



arms around my neck, but falls fainting, clinging 
to me, and I carry her like a child to the old arm- 
chair at the end of the room. 

All my strength has come back to mc. I am no 
longer wounded or ill. I carry her in my arms. 
It is difficult work to carry in your arms a being 
equal to yourself. Strong as you may be, you hardly 
suffice for it. And what I say as I look at her and 
sec her, I say because I am strong and not because 
I am weak : 

" You're everything for me because you arc you, 
and I love all of you." 

And we think together, as if she were listening to 
me : 

You are a living creature, you are a human being, 
you are the infinity that man is, and all that you 
are unites me to you. Your suffering of just now, 
your regret for the ruins of youth and the ghosts of 
caresses, all of it unites me to you, for I feel them, 
I share them. Such as you are and such as I am, 
I can say to you at last, " I love you." 

I love you, you now appearing truly to me, 
you who truly duplicate my life. We have nothing 
to turn aside from to be together. All your thoughts, 
all your likes, your ideas and your preferences, have 
a place which I feel within me, and I see that they 
are right even if my own are not like them (for each 
one's freedom is part of his vahie), and I have a 
feeling that I am telling you a lie whenever I do 
not speak to you. 

I am only going on with my thought when I say 
aloud : 

" I would give my life for you, and I forgive you 
beforehand for everything you might ever do to 
make yourself happy." 

She presses me softly in her arms, and I feel her 
murmuring tears and crooning words ; they are 
like my own. 



3o6 



LIGHT 



It seems to me that truth has taken its place 
again in our little room, and become incarnate ; 
Ihat the greatest bond which can bind two beings 
together is being confessed, the great bond we did 
not know of, though it is the whole of salvation : 

" Before, I loved you for my own sake ; to-day, 
I love you for yours " 

When you look straight on, you end by seeing 
the immense event — death. There is only one thing 
which really gives the meaning of our whole hfo, 
and that is out death. In that terrible light muv 
they judge their hearts who will one day die. 
I know well that Marie's death would be the same 
thing in my heart as my own, and it seems to rue 
that of all the world it is only within her that my 
own likeness wholly lives. We are not afraid of the 
too great sincerity which goes the length of Miese 
things ; and we talk about tliem, beside the bod 
which awaits the inevitable hour when we shall not 
awake in it again. We say : 

" There'll be a day when I shall begin something 
that I shan't finish — a walk, or a letter, or a 
sentence, or a dream." 

I stoop over her blue eyes. Just then I recalled 
the black open window in front of me — far away— 
that night v/hen I nearly died. I look at length into 
those clear eyes, and see that I am sinking into the 
only grave I shall have had. It is neither ar illusion 
nor an act of charity to admire the almost incredible 
beauty of those eyes. 

What is there within us to-night ? What is tliis 
sound of wings ? Are our eyes opening as fast as 
night falls ? Formerly, we had the sensual lovers' 
animal dread of nothingness ; but to-day, the 
simplest and richest proof of our love is that the 
supreme meaning of death to us is — leaving each 
other. 
And the bond of the flesh — neithe •'re we afraid 



FACE TO FACE 



307 



to think and speak of that, saying that we were &<> 
joined together that we knew each other completely. 
that our bodies have searched each other. This 
memory, this brand in the flesh, has its profound 
value ; and the preference which reciprocally graces 
two beings like ourselves is made of all that they 
have and all that they had. 

I stand up in front of Marie— already almost a 
convert— and I tremble and totter, so much is m\' 
heart my master : 
" Truth is more beautiful than dreams, you see." 
It is simply the tnith which has come to our aid 
It is truth which has given us life. Affection is the 
greatest of human feeHngs. because it is made of 
respect, of lucidity, and light. To understand the 
truth and make one's self c(|ual to it is everything ; 
and to love is the same thing as to know and to 
understand. Arfection, which I call also compassion 
because I see no difference between them, dominates 
everything by reason of its clear sight. It is a senti- 
ment as immense as if it were mad, and yet it is 
wise, and of human things it is the only perfect one. 
There is no great sentiment which is not completely 
held in the arms of compassion. 

To understand life, and love it to its depths in a 
living bei .g. that is the being's task, and that his 
masterpiece ; and each of us can hardly occupy jis 
time so greatly as with another one ; we have onh 
one true neighbour down here. 

To live is to be happy to Uve. The usefulness of 
life— ah. its expansion has not the mystic shapes we 
vainly dreamed of when we were paralysed by youth. 
Rather has it a shape of anxiety, of shuddering, of 
pam, and glory. Our heart is not made for the 
abstract formula of happiness, since the truth of 
thmgs is not made for it either. It beats for emotion 
and not for peace. Such is the gravity of the truth. 

" You've done well to say all that ! Yes, it is 



308 



LIGHT 



always ea&y to lie (or a moment. You might hav<. 
lied, but it would have been worse when we woke 
up from the lies. It's a reward to talk. Perhaps its 
the only reward there is," 

She said that profoundly, right to the bottom ni 
my heart. Now she is helping me, and tr^cther wc 
make the great searching* of those who are Um much 
in the right. Marie's assent is so complete that a 
is unexpected and tragic. 

" I was hkc a statue, because of the forgetting; 
and the grief. You have given me life, you have 
changed me into a woman." 

" I was turning towards the Church," she goes on . 
" you hardly Wieve in God as long as you'\' 
no need of him. When you're without anything, 
you can easily believe in him. But now, I don t 
want any longer/' 

Thus speaks Marie, Only the idolatrous and tit 
weak have need of illusion as of a remedy. The re>it 
only need See and speak. 

She smiles, vague as an angel, hovering in the 
purity of the evening between light and darkness. 
I am so near to her that I must kneel to be nearer 
still. I kiss her wet face and soft hps, holding licr 
hand in both of mine. 

Yes, there is a Divinity, one from which we niuM 
never turn aside for the guidance of our huge inward 
life and of the share we have as well in the Ufe of all 
men. It is called the truth. 



THE END 






rHINTID IT WILLIAM MUHPON AM. .<) LTB., rLVMOUTN, CNOI^NU.